Friday, April 26, 2013

Relativistic Speeds Unlikely. Again.

Warping space, a la Star Trek, or jumping into hyperspace (Star Wars, and many other SciFi stories) remains an elusive proposition. Einstein was just too smart for us -- as research on super dense collapsed stars shows.

An international research team recently used a collection of large radio and optical telescopes to investigate a pulsar and its white dwarf companion. The observations revealed a binary stellar system with unusual properties: a pulsar that weighs twice as much as our star (Sol, the sun), making it the most massive neutron star measure to date. This, in combination with its short orbital period of only 2.5 hours, and serves as a laboratory of sorts for the theory of general relativity in extreme conditions.

Research findings are also important for scientists who search for gravitational waves. On Earth, they are using large detectors, like the laser interferometers GEO600, LIGO and VIRGO. One of the key signals they are looking for in their data are the gravitational waves emitted by two neutron stars during those last few minutes when they quickly spiral towards each other and finally collide. Decades of mathematical research in general relativity were necessary to calculate the expected gravitational waves from such a collision.

Monday, April 22, 2013

ZDNet Touts the Flexibility of SOA

ZDnet, in quoting a Forrester report, says:

By breaking down applications and systems into loosely coupled services, service oriented architecture has paved the way for enterprise architects to support smaller, more numerous, and even more "experiemental" projects within their organizations. One of the advantages SOA brings to organizations is the ability to abstract important parts of applications as reusable, standardized services that can be run in any and all connecting systems. The emergence of these flexible service layers means architects, developers and even business users can more readily put together new business workflows and processes without the need to rewire or rewrite underlying applications.

SOA means successful organizations are improving services by making them highly modular, releasing features early and independently -- in contrast to grouping them together in major releases -- and testing applications in production with a new generation of testing tools and techniques to ensure that features don't just run in the lab, they run right in the wild.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Too Much Bad News? Here's A Roundup of Games, for Distraction

Over at C|Net, there is a handy round-up of upcoming computer games. My current favorite is BioShock, and BioShock Infinite is a first person shooter where you assume the persona of former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt. He is assigned to investigate the flying city of Columbia -- a rescue mission to save Elizabeth, who has been imprisoned since childhood. A thematic storyline and cool abilities to unlock make this a good distraction.

My current favorite board game is Carcassonne, which, surprisingly, doesn't use dice. Players draw tiles out of a bag (the random factor) to build out a 16th century French countryside, and build cities and roads. Each tile might feature a city, a road, a monastery, plains or some combination. They are placed adjacent to tiles that have already been played, in such a way that cities are connected to cities, roads to roads, until all tiles are places. Players get points, and the player with the most when all tiles are placed, wins. Here's a video of game play.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Author's WIsh for Self-Driving Cars -- further down the road?

Carmakers have so far introduced autonomous technology carefully, aware that having too little to worry about behind the wheel can be just as dangerous as having too many distractions. Too slowly for this committed car junkie. After all, what could be more futuristic than jumping into your hovercar, pulling the door downward to close it, keying in your destination, and dozing for two hours until you arrive at the seaside? Well, a jetpack. But, failing personal flight, autonomous driving would finally bring the future to now.

But this MIT article throws cold water on the dream of autodrive mode.

From this article: 'Vehicle automation is being developed at a blistering pace, and it should make driving safer, more fuel-efficient, and less tiring. But despite such progress and the attention surrounding Google's "self-driving" cars, full autonomy remains a distant destination. A truly autonomous car, one capable of dealing with any real-world situation, would require much smarter artificial intelligence than Google or anyone else has developed. The problem is that until the moment our cars can completely take over, we will need automotive technologies to strike a tricky balance: they will have to extend our abilities without doing too much for the driver.'

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Google to the Rescue -ths time, petro problems

The National Academy of Sciences released a report on how the United States could cut gasoline use and transport emissions 80 percent by 2050 — a key step toward addressing global warming and U.S. oil dependency. It would be difficult, the report said, but a big push on electric vehicles, advanced biofuels and efficiency could get us there.

Driverless cars could be more fuel-efficient. Self-driving cars and trucks will be able to bunch close together at steadier speeds. Traffic jams and accidents will become less as robotic driving reduces problems. The new technology could provide solutions to some of our most intractable social problems—the high cost of traffic crashes and transportation infrastructure, the millions of hours wasted in traffic jams, and the wasted urban space given over to parking lots.

Read more in this PDF from KPMG.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Google in trouble for predatory pricing -- for NOT charging.

Fairsearch Europe, a group including rivals Microsoft, claims Android operating system is 'deceptive way' to dominate markets. The group says Android is "a deceptive way to build advantages" which aims to "dominate the mobile marketplace and cement its control over consumer internet data for online advertising as usage shifts to mobile.

The complaint comes as the European commission's antitrust chief, JoaquĆ­n Almunia, continues an investigation into Google's dominance in search that has ground on for more than two years without any clear action. The EC competition group has raised four principal objections to Google's activities in Europe – normally a precursor to regulatory action.

Android-powered phones make up about 70% of those shipped in Europe at present, though a smaller amount of the installed base. Microsoft's Windows Phone makes up around 5%. Not to be left out, Apple has been the subject of European Union complaints about anticompetitive practices carried out by Apple, and its administrative department -- the European Commission -- is closely monitoring the situation.

Carriers throughout Europe (but mainly French carriers) have sent information regarding their contracts with Apple to the European Commission saying that Apple's rules for carrying the iPhone are anticompetitive.

According to many, predatory pricing is a practice of selling a product or service at a very low price, intending to reduce competitors out of the market, or create barriers to entry for potential new competitors. To many economists, this is an absurd concept: as long as any transaction takes place because the parties to it agree to the price, the only reason they will do so is because each party thinks he will be better off doing the transaction, than not. One party is not "preying on" the other.

To this author's mind, the term of arbitrary and moralizing based on non-economic views -- whoever is using the term disapproves of an actual price for whatever reason; there is no reason why Google should offer its mobile operating system for free, if handset makers agree. They do have a "EULA" or licensing agreement to abide by, after all.

Some argue that it is particularly hypocritical for a government agency to criticize companies' pricing, since the funding of government comes from taxation, which is not a voluntary transaction, but is based on coercion -- ultimately the threat of imprisonment. The only real predatory pricing is taxation, to many anarcho-capitalists.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Anarcho-capitalist Dream

From The Guardian... Bitcoin offers an alternative to the conventional, state-sanctioned banking system. Maybe that's why powerful institutions are so wary of it.

The Bitcoin phenomenon is one of the most intriguing things to have happened in cyberspace since the invention of the peer-to-peer networking that undermined the music business and enabled developments such as Wikileaks. It's an invention of a mysterious – and, to date, unidentified – programmer who called himself Satoshi Nakamoto and claimed to be a 36-year-old Japanese male. He launched Bitcoin on 3 January 2009 and disappeared entirely from the net in April 2011, saying that he was moving on to other things...

Read on...