In this issue:
Digital Tonto • December 1, 2009
Feed your curiosity. Richard Feynman was a brilliant visionary whose extraordinary intellect was instrumental in the conceptualization and understanding of such complex fields as nanotechnology and quantum computing. Like Einstein, much of his insight and inspiration came from the ordinary things around him, and once his interest was piqued, he worked on the problem until he figured it out. Forecasting the future isn't magic — it's a matter of intellectual rigor.
Feynman is always engaging if usually too difficult for me to actually understand. This is a good synthesis of his attitudes towards investigation and discovery and worth clicking on if only to watch the video embedded near the end. In talking about Feynman, Marvin Minsky laid out the following characteristics of genius:
– Don't respond to peer pressure.
– Keep track of what the problem really is; less wishful thinking.
– Have a lot of ways of representing things. If one way doesn't work, switch quickly to another one.
CNN.com • December 1, 2009
Computers R Us. Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie says that in 10 years, the physical computer interface will be gone — computers will be designed to respond to our gestures or eye movements. And when our walls and work surfaces become an extended computer display, is it time to think about redesigning our public spaces?
Worth a look. The article focuses on the modes of interactions with computers but Mundie's comments are really about the nature and form of interactivity and problem-solving that we'd like to get out of our computers. Gestural interaction looks cool and may even be important for certain kinds of problems or efficiency but the ubiquity and firepower of the machines are where the real advances will be. ( Michalko)
The Forrester Blog for Consumer Product Strategy Professionals • December 1, 2009
Multipurpose devices, more competition. E-Readers will get apps, Barnes & Noble will stay in the game, E-Ink will face some serious competition. There are lots of "Top Ten" lists for the new year — this one is worth checking out.
As promised here's more year-end "top ten." This should interest us. The trajectory of e-books along with a Google Book Search settlement will forever change the landscape for libraries in the US. Their prediction about the slow growth of eTextbooks is, I think, correct. It looks like we'll have to live through a generation of publisher proprietary textbook devices before publishers relinquish control in this domain. ( Michalko)
The New York Times • December 7, 2009
Stumble home safely and more. Local governments are making a wide range of data available to the public, empowering citizens and enabling new services such as Washington, DC's Stumble Safely site that maps local watering holes and highlights nearby crime scenes to avoid. As more diverse and voluminous data is made available, advanced visualization technology will be key to making sense of the information.
This is an exciting trend. Releasing public data in this way acknowledges the public's interest, but more importantly notes that data gatherers don't know all the things that can be done with their data. I'm pleased to see that our home town is leading the way with a clearinghouse of datasets available from the City and County of San Francisco. And the mayor is promoting it. As he says in the article, "I can't wait until it challenges and infuriates the bureaucracy." Clearly a man that doesn't intend to run for further public office. ( Michalko)
The New York Times • December 5, 2009
Music on tap. iPhone apps are turning the ubiquitous mobile device into "the most unusual of musical instruments." A recent concert by the Stanford Mobile Phone Orchestra featured music tapped out on iPhones amplified by speakers attached to small fingerless gloves, and apps are available that create flute-like sounds by blowing across the microphone and touching virtual finger holes. What's next — iPhone drumming circles?
Drumming circles — I hope not. A virtual ocarina sounds amusing and/or irritating. I am, however, a fan of Brian Eno and he has built an intriguing and beautiful app that generates music as well as visualizations. See a video of it here. Useful in airports. ( Michalko)
Open Culture • December 2, 2009
Freebies. Check out this list of free educational resources and start planning your New Year's self-improvement resolutions. There are free audio book classics, language lessons, university lectures, film libraries and more.
I didn't know the openculture.com site. I love places that do this kind of preliminary sorting and grouping for you. Right out of the box I discovered some jazz-related podcasts about which I was ignorant. They are on my feed now. ( Sonny Rollins, Buddy Guy...more) ( Michalko)
The National • November 5, 2009
Arts and craft. This book review of John Brewer's The American Leonardo: A Tale of Obsession, Art and Money highlights two court cases that reveal the power wielded by art experts, even in the face of seemingly convincing evidence to the contrary. Read it for fun, and for more on Leonardo, see Da Vinci's "Last Supper" Gets Digital Makeover.
A fascinating review and capsule telling of the story that suffices for me. A Da Vinci in Kansas? ( Michalko)
National Post • December 4, 2009
(Virtually) being there. Okay, it's not as good as actually wandering the streets of Pompeii, but Google's Street View of the ancient ruins provides a 3D mini-tour that offers a welcome respite from the winter blahs. When you're finished, take a spin around Stonehenge and Versailles for some additional armchair tourism. See also Google and UNESCO Announce Alliance to Provide Virtual Visits of Several World Heritage Sites.
I hadn't seen this. Put some facts into the Google views of these sites and you have the kind of augmented reality that has been much discussed but usually from a commercial perspective. Pretty soon not only will the books talk to one another but things will speak for themselves. Some will just have more interesting stories to tell. (If you know who first used that phrase about books talking to one another in regard to electronic text, let me know. I recall hearing it used in the mid-1990s in the early days of the net but can't find a reliable attribution.) ( Michalko)