The University of Washington has developed Passive Wi-Fi. A method of generating 802.11b transmissions using backscatter communication, while consuming 10000 times less power than existing Wi-Fi chipsets (and 1000 times less power than Bluetooth or Zigbee) Passive Wi-Fi transmissions can be decoded on any Wi-Fi device including routers, mobile phones and tablets. [more inside]
It’s no accident that Iowa, where the first transcontinental railroad began, is now home to a huge data-center industry.
"Given that we still have so far to go, why am I telling people they should stop writing secure messaging tools? Because we have too many other tools we also need." Decentralized collaboration is how programmers work on software projects; it's also a good model for nonprofits, NGOs, and distributed teams of all kinds, especially ones which operate in risky environments or have powerful adversaries, according to this essay by Eleanor Saitta, a security consultant, systems thinker, and activist. She lists a number of system properties such teams need (decentralization, offline-friendliness, end-to-end encryption, etc) and two dozen ideas for needed tools: mind mapping, wiki, map-based storytelling, work assignment and tracking, reference management, and so on. [more inside]
Hyperreal numbers: infinities and infinitesimals - "In 1976, Jerome Keisler, a student of the famous logician Tarski, published this elementary textbook that teaches calculus using hyperreal numbers. Now it's free, with a Creative Commons copyright!" (pdf—25mb :) [more inside]
Norbert Wiener: The Eccentric Genius Whose Time May Have Finally Come (Again) - "The most direct reason for Wiener's fall to relative obscurity was the breakthrough of a young mathematician and engineer named Claude Shannon." [more inside]
Scott Aaronson on building a 'PageRank' for (eigen)morality and (eigen)trust - "Now, would those with axes to grind try to subvert such a system the instant it went online? Certainly. For example, I assume that millions of people would rate Conservapedia as a more trustworthy source than Wikipedia—and would rate other people who had done so as, themselves, trustworthy sources, while rating as untrustworthy anyone who called Conservapedia untrustworthy. So there would arise a parallel world of trust and consensus and 'expertise', mutually-reinforcing yet nearly disjoint from the world of the real. But here's the thing: anyone would be able to see, with the click of a mouse, the extent to which this parallel world had diverged from the real one." [more inside]
Network Theory Overview - "The idea: nature and the world of human technology are full of networks! People like to draw diagrams of networks. Mathematical physicists know that in principle these diagrams can be understood using category theory. But why should physicists have all the fun? This is the century of understanding living systems and adapting to life on a finite planet. Math isn't the main thing we need, but it's got to be part of the solution... so one thing we should do is develop a unified and powerful theory of networks." (via ;)
Open warfare erupts in the world of mathematical biology, as Lior Pachter of UC-Berkeley writes three blog posts attacking two papers in Nature Bioscience, accusing one of them of being "dishonest and fraudulent": The Network Nonsense of Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, The Network Nonsense of Manolo Kellis, and Why I Read the Network Nonsense Papers. Kellis (MIT) and his co-authors respond (.pdf.)
There is a fundamental disconnect between large-scale, for-profit media and the crushing power of enthusiasm, which is that when they try to control it, it instantly isn't real. It's patently unreal. It's excitement given life by force, Pet Sematary-style. But when they don't control it, it isn't profitable. And that means that when they run into people excited about their stuff, they vacillate between an Ebenezerian lack of generosity and a Professor-Harold-Hillian smarm. To own enthusiasm and to exploit it are competing instincts, much as they often seem to be twins. You can, in fact, sometimes best exploit it — or only exploit it — by leaving it alone. -- In what could be considered a Metafilter Manifesto, Mefi's own Linda Holmes takes on the multivariate economics of fandom and the internet.
Matternet will be a network of drones to deliver stuff (matter), “micro-transportation” that will allow unmanned aerial vehicles to ferry all sorts of (small) goods across long distances. Video (5m). [more inside]
Paperscape is a searchable 2-dimensional visualization of the 800,000+ scientific papers (mostly in physics and math) on the arXiv preprint server.
telegeography.com has a nice gallery of zoomable maps of global telecommunications and IT infrastructure, such as submarine cables (1 2), and internet backbones.
Networks of the Hanseatic League - The Hanseatic League was a late-medieval network of economically largely independent long-distance trade merchants which was based on trust, reputation and reciprocal relations. The informal cooperation among its members kept transactional, informational and organizational costs low, allowing the Hanse merchants to make good profits from the long-distance trade between the Baltic and the North Seas. Thanks to personal and institutional links with confederations of towns, the Hanse merchants were initially able to strengthen their international position of power. Since the late 15th century, however, the transaction costs of long-distance trade increased as a result of growing exclusivity and formalization efforts in the Hanseatic league. Moreover, changes in the European economic structure, triggered by the discovery of America, and internal conflicts ultimately led to the disintegration of the Hanseatic networks.
The Nature of Computation - Intellects Vast and Warm and Sympathetic: "I hand you a network or graph, and ask whether there is a path through the network that crosses each edge exactly once, returning to its starting point. (That is, I ask whether there is a 'Eulerian' cycle.) Then I hand you another network, and ask whether there is a path which visits each node exactly once. (That is, I ask whether there is a 'Hamiltonian' cycle.) How hard is it to answer me?" (via) [more inside]
Start Your Own Currency - "In the Catalonia region of Spain, a restaurant and a community garden are part of an experiment in alternative cash--they are accepting a home-grown currency called the Eco as well as the Euro." [viz. gated article (Google link), cf. The Wörgl Experiment]
Got the homepage blues? Rebel Mouse is here to save the day. Former Huffington Post CTO, Paul Berry, has launched what looks like a digital newspaper of your on-line social life. While the website only allows for Facebook and Twitter integration at launch, Instagram and Tumblr will be integrated. Personalized aggregation of your content presented in way that makes it easy for others to subconsciously consume multi-dimensional social networking.
"Samuel Arbesman is a senior scholar at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and author of the forthcoming book 'The Half-Life of Facts'. His research and essays explore how to quantify all aspects of society." [more inside]
Artist and film-maker, Hito Steyerl, asks us to stand shoulder to shoulder with our digital equivalents. Digital images are Things (like you and me) - a plethora of compressed, corrupted representations pushed and pulled through increasingly policed and capitalised information networks. If 80% of all internet traffic* is SPAM - a liberated excess withdrawn** from accepted channels of communication - perhaps it is in The Poor Image we find our closest kin? [more inside]
On November 22, 2011, TEDxBrussels held an all day event whose theme was: "A Day in the Deep Future." Speakers were asked to try and contemplate what life will be like for mankind in 50 years. Overview. [more inside]
Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities: We show how the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed by a small fraction p of randomly distributed committed agents who consistently proselytize the opposing opinion and are immune to influence. Specifically, we show that when the committed fraction grows beyond a critical value pc ≈ 10%, there is a dramatic decrease in the time, Tc, taken for the entire population to adopt the committed opinion. [.pdf] [more inside]
Collusion is a firefox add-on that visualizes in real-time which data collection companies track you across different websites on the web and what they're learning about you. Atul Varma describes how this project came about. Safari meanwhile has ghostery, an extension that gives you a roll-call of the ad networks, behavioral data providers, web publishers, and other companies interested in your activity. [more inside]
"Over the next five years more and more things will act on our behalf and encourage us to do things based on our actions. " How the Internet of Things will change the world.
“certain styles of research were suggested to be prone to ‘groupthink, reduced creativity and the possibility of less-rigorous reviewing processes.’ Edward Wegman is a professor at George Mason and a distinguished statistician with a long career, a former winner of the ASA's Founders Award. In 2006 he testified before Congress on climate science, sharply criticizing the statistical methodology of Michael Mann's "hockey stick graph," which showed a sharp increase in global temperature in the last part of the 20th century. One section of Wegman's testimony concerned "social network analysis," and suggested that Mann's tightly-knit network of co-authors might have led to insufficiently aggressive peer review. USA Today reports that Wegman's testimony contained a substantial quantity of plagiarized material, and the peer-reviewed article derived from the testimony has been retracted by the journal that published it. John Mashey has compiled an obsessively thorough catalogue of the plagiarized text. (large .pdf.) [more inside]
The Birth of Sharing Law and the Rise of Co-ops - "A new sharing economy is emerging — but how does it fit within our legal system? Time for a whole new field of cooperation law." (via wc)
The Exterminator’s Want-Ad, a short story by Bruce Sterling, is a twisted first-person missive by a former K-Street lobbyist making his way in a post-collapse socialist regime of sharing. It's part of the Shareable Futures series of short stories and speculative essays at Shareable.net. [Via]
Follow the money attempts to detect and visualize the structure of large-scale communities in the US based on the flow of money using data from Where's George? [via]
What if our economy was not built on competition? Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom talks about her work on cooperation in economics. [more inside]
Cybersyn (or Synco, in Spanish) was computer network constructed in 1970 by an English/Chilean team headed by cyberneticist Stafford Beer (his papers). Cybersyn was an electronic nervous system for the Chilean economy, linking together mines, factories and so on, to better manage production and give workers a clear idea of what was in demand and where. The network was destroyed by the army after the 1973 coup. Later that year Stafford Beer drew upon the lessons of Cybersyn to write Fanfare for Effective Freedom, a eulogy for Allende and Cybersyn, and Designing Freedom, a series of six lectures he gave for CBC, outlining his ideas. Besides the first link in this post, the best place to start is this Guardian article from 2003. If you want to go more in-depth, read Eden Medina's Designing Freedom, Regulating a Nation: Socialist Cybernetics in Allende’s Chile. And if nothing else, just take a look at the amazing Cybersyn control room.
Fox News is the most trusted news network in the United States, according to a new poll [.pdf] of 1,151 Americans conducted by Public Policy Polling (a polling firm with a mostly Democratic and progressive list of clients), the most trusted news network among Americans is FOX News, which was trusted by 49% of respondents (beating out CNN, MS-NBC, CBS, NBC, and ABC (though PBS was not included in the survey)). The pollsters conclude: “A generation ago you would have expected Americans to place their trust in the most neutral and unbiased conveyors of news,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “But the media landscape has really changed and now they’re turning more toward the outlets that tell them what they want to hear.”
You remember Real, right? They made that media player you tried (and sometimes failed) to uninstall. They took on Microsoft and won a few years back, and Real remains propped up on that pile of cash. Last year, Real took on the motion-picture industry, and failed. A few days ago, a follow-on suit was slapped around the ears by judge Marilyn Patel, the same Patel that sent Napster packing. Yesterday, Real's COO resigned. Today, Real founder Rob Glaser stepped down as CEO.
Keynes & Marx thought "that productivity would grow sufficiently to allow our needs to be met with very little labour," and that humankind's biggest preoccupation in the future would be leading lives of comfortable (or comparative) leisure. Obviously, that has not yet come to pass. But why?** Yochai Benkler (previously), for one, is working on it... [more inside]
"the scale-free network modeing paradigm is largely inconsistent with the engineered nature of the Internet..." For a decade it's been conventional wisdom that the Internet has a scale-free topology, in which the number of links emanating from a site obeys a power law. In other words, the Internet has a long tail; compared with a completely random network, its structure is dominated by a few very highly connected nodes, while the rest of the web consists of a gigantic list of sites attached to hardly anything. Among its other effects, this makes the web highly vulnerable to epidemics. The power law on the internet has inspired a vast array of research by computer scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. According to an article in this month's Notices of the American Math Society, it's all wrong. How could so many scientists make this kind of mistake? Statistician Cosma Shalizi explains how people see power laws when they aren't there: "Abusing linear regression makes the baby Gauss cry."
Braess' paradox and the price of anarchy [PDF]: "We had three tunnels in the city and one needed to be shut down. Bizarrely, we found that car volumes dropped. ... We discovered it was a case of Braess' paradox, which says that by taking away space in an urban area you can actually increase the flow of traffic, and, by implication, by adding extra capacity to a road network you can reduce overall performance." [more inside]
Ramón y Cajal fathered a new science with his elegant sketches of neurons. Since then, the brain has been visualized in a variety of ways: from the microscopic to the functional, from the abstract to the beautiful. The connectome, intellectual heir to the human genome project and proteomics, aims to map the entire brain network as a means of understanding cognition and behavior. Pick your favorite brain metaphor here.
I will provide emergency contraception to any woman who requests it, no questions asked, in complete privacy, free of cost.
Emergency Kindness -- a new network dedicated to providing emergency contraception for women in need. Members ("Janes") promise to have some Plan B on hand to immediately send to women in need, whether they were denied by their local doctor or pharmacy or couldn't get to one.
Big Brother 101 -- Could your social networks brand you an enemy of the state? (Popular Science Mag) And one staffer finds out it might--due to a connection to the Buffalo Six. Think 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, but with tapping and surveillance and worse at the other end.
Esposing Earmarks: networked journalism's first assignment. Today marks a key moment in the evolution of the Web as a reporting medium. The first left-right-center coalition of bloggers, activists, non-profits, citizens and journalists to investigate a story of national import: Congressional earmarks and those who sponsor and benefit from them. Join the hunt!
Two recent papers examine networks among Republicans: one among lawyers and the other among judges. Lawyers of the Right: Networks and Organization concludes that conservative lawyers, and particularly the Federalist Society, occupies a structurally important core bridging the gap between the religious and business constituencies on the right, which otherwise wouldn't interact. Meanwhile, Do Republican Judges Cite Other Republican Judges More? concludes that judges tend to base outside-circuit citation decisions on the political party of the cited judge, tend to cite judges of the opposite political party significantly less, are more likely to engage in biased citation practices in certain high stakes situations, and cite disproportionately more to those judges that cite back to them frequently. [via Professor Bainbridge and Empirical Legal Studies]
It's all one's and zero's eh? The complex patterns of the natural world often turn out to be governed by relatively simple mathematical relationships. A seashell grows at a rate proportional to its size, resulting in a delicate spiral. The gossamer network of galaxies results from the simple interplay between cosmic expansion and the force of gravity over a wide range of scales. As our catalogue of natural phenomena has grown more complete, more and more scientists have begun to look for interesting patterns in human society.
The Wealth of Networks: the seminar. We've talked about The Wealth of Networks before. Now Crooked Timber is hosting a web seminar on the book & the ideas in it. How it works: a bunch of smart guys read the book & write essays on it, then post them for anyone to read & comment on. You can read them all together (PDF) or separately with comments: Norms and Networks, A General Theory of Information Politics, Why Do Social Networks Work?, Whose Networks? Whose Wealth?, Mediating the Social Contradiction of the Digital Age, The Dialectic of Technology & the author's response. And now you can join in too!
"Every war becomes a proving ground for new tactics and new technologies."... "...The Pentagon began this war believing its new, networked technologies would help make U.S. ground forces practically unstoppable in Iraq. ... But now, more than three years into sectarian conflict and a violent insurgency that has cost nearly 2,400 American lives, an investigation of the current state of network-centric warfare reveals that frontline troops have a critical need for networked gear—gear that hasn’t come yet. " [more inside]
A talk given by Matt Webb on fictional futures, and a whole lot besides. Just some text and some pictures, but he takes you on a most excellent brain adventure, from Italo Calvino to a map of all the biochemical reactions on Earth to Vannevar Bush’s machine, the Memex with dozens of stops in between. One of my favorite parts -- and the coolest use of RSS I've ever seen -- is a tool to subscribe to your personal lightcone. [via]
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