GPS tagging photos on Flickr has been done for a long time, but I had not seen it on regular blogs yet. Why not? You could do a lot of fun with that! At least I hadn't heard any noise about it so I thought it hadn't really taken off. But of course some clever people had started working on this long ago and things are well on the way.

The first thoughts around this I got from reading an article on O'Reilly radar about Google supporting GeoRSS. That led me to the GeoRSS homepage which links straight to geotagthings.com. In geotagthings (still in beta) you can subscribe to a feed that's an aggregation of many geotagged feeds that are limited to be within a certain area of your choice. I think it would be really fun to see what other bloggers in the block are saying and what pictures they are posting.

Then of course there's the question of how to easily add geotags to all blog posts. It should of course happen automatically if possible, but good support for adding it manually should be built into all blogging software. There should be the possibility to save some default locations where you do most posts from and a row with free editing, just to enter latitude and longitude.

There's a newly started GNOME project called GeoClue, which is about making a DBus service for geographic information. They have a great list on the homepage with suggestions of how this information could be used and I really hope this to takes off. The more this is integrated into the desktop the better.

One of many cool things mentioned on the GeoClue page is Placeopedia. Placeopedia is an effort to connect Wikipedia articles with the location they are talking about. This is exactly what I want to have in my Neo1973 when I'm out traveling somewhere. "Is there something interesting around here?" - One look on the map and I can click and read the article about it.

Of course some clever minds at Google have also been looking at this stuff. There's been some rumors that maybe Google was making a phone, but of course they were not going build any hardware. The proof for this is this patent for quicker search results when using a mobile device was dug up by Mad4MobilePhones. It shows that Google was, as usually, looking for a way to get better and faster search results. Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica took a closer look on this new mobile search and really liked it. The last piece of the puzzle is how to add the positioning automatically. (Google's mobile search currently needs you to enter your current Zip code to tell where you are.)

GPS receivers are getting built into more and more things and now we have to make it possible to get the geographic information to all programs that can make use of it.

Population, Coriolis and more myths

There's a common rumor that there's more people alive now on Earth than have ever lived. I've always found this to be unlikely, but haven't really done any calculations on it. Luckily, some guy has already done the calculations. (See here)

Counting with very low estimates, starting with two homo sapiens 50,000 years ago and using the lower limit of estimated growth and populations, Carl Haub still got the estimation that slightly over 106 billion people had ever been born. The current 6.5 billion is not even close.

Another common rumor is that water running down a drain spins in different directions on the northern and southern hemispheres, but that's not true either. The Coriolis force is just too weak on smaller scales. (See here)

More interesting facts about urban myths and legends can be found at snopes.com



I'm amused by this recent study by Stuart Cadwallader and Jim Campbell at the University of Warwick. They conclude that gifted students use heavy metal music to unwind. There's a nice write up at the Telegraph about it. The best quote is:
"Participants said they appreciated the complex and sometimes political themes of heavy metal music more than perhaps the average pop song. It has a tendency to worry adults a bit but I think it is just a cathartic thing. It does not indicate problems."
I'm not saying I was a "stressed gifted social outsider" as student, but I have always preferred fast and noisy music over easy listening. I don't really get why most "pop" have to be so boring. The majority of the songs I hear on the radio has melodies that are slow and repetitive and lyrics that are uninspired and boring, repeating some short and stupid sentence over and over again.

I'm convinced that fast music makes the brain work harder to decipher what is going on. I think it took over 10 times of listening before I could hear the whole lyrics to 88 Finger Louie's "I've Won". Great song, nice melodies and very very fast. Adam Goren's (Atom And His Package) music is not that fast but the lyrics are probably the best ever. Very funny and because of the rhymes and word plays it's not always obvious what he's joking about.

That is the kind of music that grows on you. A song or album where you hear every twist of the melody and every word of text the first time you hear it will bore you very quickly. The brain is a pattern matching machine and to keep it happy we have to feed it tricky enough patterns to solve. I think different people have different limits, and I think mine is somewhere at The Dillinger Escape Plan. (Calculating infinity is an amazing album).

Some of my favourites:
88 Fingers Louie, Abhinanda, Atom And His Package, Bad Religion, Beatsteaks, Billy Talent, Blindside, Boy Sets Fire, Children Of Bodom, Coheed And Cambria, Down By Law, Goldie Lookin' Chain, In Flames, Incubus, Jr Ewing, Looking Forward, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Nine, Nirvana, NOFX, Q.O.T.S.A, R.A.T.M, Raised Fist, Rancid, S.O.A.D, Shai Hulud, Snapcase, Social Distortion, Spineshank, Stabb, Sublime, Sugar Ray, The Black Keys, The Bronx, The Hives, The White Stripes, The Who, Tiger Army, Tool and Zeke.

Also, always support your favorite band and go to their show if they're playing in town!


The bottom of the sea

I have a feeling we don't know as much as we should about the life at the bottom of the oceans. About 70.8% of the surface of the Earth is covered by water and even if we know the topology of the bottom and the currents quite good from all satellites and sonar scans, most of it is still unchartered when it comes to creatures and plants. The discovery of the black smokers in 1977 near the Galápagos Islands showed that there are some very odd echo systems down there.

The problem deep down under water, like at 2000m - 2500m down where most black smokers have been found, is the lack of energy. No sunshine reaches these depths so the plants and creatures needs to use other sources to get their energy from. The strange environment with the darkness and high pressure gives rise to truly weird lifeforms.

A good example is a snail found in 2001 around some black smokers in the Indian Ocean. It uses Pyrite (aka Fools Gold) and Greigite to build a metallic shell. Covered with an iron plate mail it's like a miniature knight in armor. National Geographic did a nice article on this gastropod and Anders Warén, the lead researcher on this metal wearing snail, says they have found several thousand more new species around this kind of hydrothermal vents, and that's just counting mollusks.

The deepest dive ever made was done in 1960 by Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh with the bathyscaphe Trieste. They reached the bottom of the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench spending 20 minutes at the bottom. At the depth of 10916 m the pressure is extreme, about 1250kg per square centimeter, and currently no vessel exists that can withstand it.

The Japanese DSV Shinkai 6500 is currently the deepest-diving manned submersible in the world with a maximum depth of 6500m. It was put into service in 1989, 18 years ago, but it's still new compared the next best one, United States Alvin (the one used to find the black smokers). Alvin was commissioned in 1964, but has been updated several times, last time in 2001. It can stay at a depth of 4500m for 9 hours with three people on board.

Good to see that the National Science Foundation is well on the way to a new improved 6,500m capable deep diving vehicle that can reach more than 99% of the sea floor. I'm sure it will find plenty of interesting things.


New state of matter

The last few days some interesting physics articles about string-net liquids have popped up. It began with Robert Laughlin's Nobel Prize for the discovery of particles with a fractional charge, a completely new type of matter. It was shown that sometimes several electrons can congregate in a way that they appear to have fractional charges.

Xiao-Gang Wen studied these particles together with Michael Levin and they came up with a theory they call string-net liquids. The theory suggest that all fermionic particles are endpoints of long open strings and that light is represented by fluctuations in a closed string. Simulations of vibrations in nets made of these strings gave rise to Maxwell's Equations and to other kinds of fundamental particles.

The slides from his presentation at a quantum computer conference early March can be found here. It includes some very complicated equations, but what he wants to show in the end is that fermions and light emerges from the collective motion of strings that fill the vacuum of space. A condensed string will be have like a single particle.

Interesting stuff, and hopefully this way of looking at the fundamental particles could get us another small step closer to figure out what this whole place is all about.



I shouldn't complain it's getting warmer, it's all good for us up here in Sweden. But in some way I find this data a bit worrying.


Human evolution in another light

Yesterday Scott Adams linked to an interesting article from Newsweek about human evolution. The conclusion they get to in the article is that humans didn't evolve linearly, instead lots of branches and sub species existed at the same time.

I don't understand why people find this surprising. You see it with all species in nature, be it fishes in Lake Victoria or sparrows on the Galapagos Islands. Evolution is not linear. I find it obvious that a random process will give results that diverge and spread out.

The article also suggests that by tracking specific genes in the DNA, we can find the last common ancestor to all living humans. It seems like they lived about 89,000 years ago and left Africa as recently as 66,000 years ago.

One of the last sentences in the articles says "It therefore suggests that we are still evolving.". Of course we are, who would ever think otherwise? I believe it's happening quite fast too, but with a completely different set of rules compared to back then. The definition of fitness for survival and reproduction in this modern world is nothing at all like surviving on the plains of Africa.

Scott Adams says "Fossils are Bullshit" and what he means is that the old rigid theory of evolution just doesn't feel right. I agree that the theory is far from complete and I think it's a common mistake by many scientists that when they find a proof for a particular thing within their current theory, they feel like they have to increase the scope of the theory to include things that are way beyond what they actually did prove.

Of course everyone want to make their theory more and more general and less complicated, but I think it's been proven over and over again that everything in the universe is more complicated than it looks at first glance.

A lot of times it seems like getting enough detailed information is the biggest hurdle. Often it feels like scientists spend too much time staring at the data they already have instead of thinking about new ways to find data that would shine a light on the problem from a different angle.

To use DNA in addition to the information they have from fossils and bones, like they did in the article, is a great example of finding such an additional source of data forcing them to adjust the current theory.

We should look at things from another angle more often.


Pi day!

Happy 3.14 everyone! ;-)

Google Analytics

Just did a test and added Google Analytics to the template for the blog main page. It's supposed to show some information in about 24 hours. Would be fun to see if it shows any other views than my own.

How to keep a geek employee happy

Was a fun and quite accurate post on nomadishere.com about what a geek/nerd needs to be happy with work. I'd say number 1, 4 and 8 is the most important points.


Google Reader

Google Reader is just too easy to use. Hours disappear browsing through all interesting news and blog feeds. The key shortcuts works great, it's easy to star or share links and all embedded media just works.

The only difficulty is to sort the flow of news and just get the best most interesting things. To avoid information that you don't really need. I'm guessing this problem will just continue to grow just as quickly as the flow of detailed information does.

If someone missed the flash movie called Epic 2014, released in November 2004 by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson you owe it to yourself to watch it. These guys were way ahead of their time doing this. Impressive!


TED talks to watch...

Wow! Can't wait for the movies of these talks to show up on the TEDTalks pages.. They're always worth watching. Feels good to know there's people like these guys out there.. :-)


The evolution of religion

New York Times had a great article called Darwin’s God last Sunday. It's a lot to read, but absolutely well worth it.

I definitely think that religion and superstition is a byproduct of something that was actually useful for human survival. Stephen Jay Gould used the architectural term "spandrel" for it and I guess that's as good as any. Unfortunately I think religion has a more negative than positive impact in our society, mainly because it can so easily be misused to control followers.

Just read the article, the writing style is excellent and the topic is fascinating!


First Neo1973 phones are being shipped

Some happy Phase 0 developers will soon have a Neo1973 phone delivered to their doorstep. Hopefully we'll see a lot more images of it and a lot of bugfixes and work done until the first revised developer version can be ordered by the end of this month.

It's really nice to see FIC being so open with everything in this project


Lack of focus

I believe that the only way to be truly great at something is by pursuing it relentlessly. Motivation, focus and determination is definitely more important than how "gifted" you supposedly are. This is even more true if the person in question is still a kid.

To become a good writer, writing a lot is the only way. To become a good painter, you have to paint a lot. To be the best programmer you can be, write as much code as you can. To be the best athlete, train harder than everyone else. This is being mentioned time and time again, but still people in general don't seem to get it. It's always "she's so talented" or "he's so lucky to be born with that gift" and so on. Of course natural predisposition plays a part too, but I don't think it's as big as people seem to make it.

The hardest thing with getting truly good at something is to give up, or at least cut back a lot, on all other activities. You need focus and have a clear goal, something to pour all your energy into. You have to want to be the best at what you do and only have that in your mind. Focus is the key.

This is a huge problem when you want to be good at everything. I just don't think it's possible be that. Sure, you can be pretty good at a lot of things, but not great at everything no matter how hard you try. Intellectually, no matter how clever you are, time is the limiting factor to what you can achieve. And the slower you think, the more time you need.

People who push them selves to extremes impress me. Not so much for the thing they chose to do, but for their ability to take on something truly extreme and just do it.

Focus people...