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Economic explosion

Sep. 11th, 2006 | 02:51 pm

A while ago I posted about my visit to Dubai. Here's a couple of nice pictures showing what the economic explosion there looks like. Firstly, this is the new part of Dubai in 1991:

And then 14 years later in 2005:

I hear that China is the same story... just much bigger.

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Is There an Artificial God?

Sep. 2nd, 2006 | 10:23 pm

This is a great talk by Douglas Adams. Below is one part of the talk that's about God.

Tools have enabled us to think intentionally, to make things and to do things to create a world that fits us better. Now imagine an early man surveying his surroundings at the end of a happy day’s tool making. He looks around and he sees a world which pleases him mightily: behind him are mountains with caves in – mountains are great because you can go and hide in the caves and you are out of the rain and the bears can’t get you; in front of him there’s the forest – it’s got nuts and berries and delicious food; there's a stream going by, which is full of water – water’s delicious to drink, you can float your boats in it and do all sorts of stuff with it; here’s cousin Ug and he’s caught a mammoth – mammoth’s are great, you can eat them, you can wear their coats, you can use their bones to create weapons to catch other mammoths. I mean this is a great world, it’s fantastic. But our early man has a moment to reflect and he thinks to himself, ‘well, this is an interesting world that I find myself in’ and then he asks himself a very treacherous question, a question which is totally meaningless and fallacious, but only comes about because of the nature of the sort of person he is, the sort of person he has evolved into and the sort of person who has thrived because he thinks this particular way. Man the maker looks at his world and says ‘So who made this then?’ Who made this? – you can see why it’s a treacherous question. Early man thinks, ‘Well, because there’s only one sort of being I know about who makes things, whoever made all this must therefore be a much bigger, much more powerful and necessarily invisible, one of me and because I tend to be the strong one who does all the stuff, he’s probably male’. And so we have the idea of a god. Then, because when we make things we do it with the intention of doing something with them, early man asks himself, ‘If he made it, what did he make it for?’ Now the real trap springs, because early man is thinking, ‘This world fits me very well. Here are all these things that support me and feed me and look after me; yes, this world fits me nicely’ and he reaches the inescapable conclusion that whoever made it, made it for him.

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Nova Security Control

Aug. 14th, 2006 | 09:25 pm

By Shane Legg at about 11 years of age.

Clearly at this point in my life I'd been watching far too much cold war era sci-fi. Unfortunately I don't have a copy of the original here in Switzerland so I can't put in the parts that were hand written in (no doubt very bad) Russian. Maybe one day when I'm back in New Zealand I'll try to find it and put these back in. I still have the Roman character versions for you Russian speakers to laugh at though.

I still remember writing the part here the helicopter flies over the lake in the space city... that was definately insprired by the opening credits of Miami Vice. As for the over the top cost of the American space station... hey, there must have been a lot of inflation.

Read more...Collapse )

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Aug. 13th, 2006 | 04:22 pm


A story I wrote in about 1982. I was a bit scientifically confused, but hey, I was 9...

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Talking mirror

Jul. 21st, 2006 | 11:29 am

Ever wanted a talking mirror... just like the evil Queen in Snow White?

Now's your chance!

One minute it's a normal looking mirror...

...then out of nowhere fades in a talking head.

Watch the animation.

You can hook it up to things around your house like a camera on the front door to tell you when people are arriving etc.

I want one!

You can get them from Theme addicts.

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Jul. 21st, 2006 | 12:26 am

The forecast for tomorrow is 36C (97F), about the same as today.

That would be no problem in, say, Texas. But here in Switzerland very few houses have air con., indeed even the public library doesn't.

So we just... cook.

Thankfully work has good air con.

My blog here has been a bit slow recently... I've been busy with other stuff, including posting more often to my research blog.

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"Ubuntu Shock"

Jul. 15th, 2006 | 10:49 pm

I'm having "Ubuntu Shock".

I had a file I wanted printed and saw a printer sitting here under a desk. So I turned it on, plugged it into my laptop's USB port and selected "install new printer" from the system admin menu. Ubuntu told me it could see an HP 950 printer and asked if I wanted to set it up as a local printer. I glanced over, and sure enough the printer had HP 950 written on the front. So I clicked "yes". Back to Adobe acrobat and click print and... out comes the paper.


Earlier today my girlfriend brought an MP3 player. I plugged it into my laptop and, just like magic, up popped a little icon of an MP3 player on my desktop. Simple as that.


I'm sure Linux is not supposed to be this easy. At this rate I'm going to have to start using GNU Hurd in order to get my nerd cred back.

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Nobody tell the Christians....

Jul. 10th, 2006 | 10:55 pm

... but there is experimental evidence suggesting that the earth really could be at the centre of the universe.

From this article:
...when you look at CMB map, you also see that the structure that is observed, is in fact, in a weird way, correlated with the plane of the earth around the sun. Is this Copernicus coming back to haunt us? That's crazy. We're looking out at the whole universe. There's no way there should be a correlation of structure with our motion of the earth around the sun — the plane of the earth around the sun — the ecliptic. That would say we are truly the center of the universe.

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Music for free?!? That's criminal!

Jun. 2nd, 2006 | 11:36 am

Remember my recent post about The Piano Society where you can legally get free mp3's of classical music? The idea is that pianists want to advertise themselves and so they put some of their performances online for free download.

Unfortunately, Swedish police worked out that a lot of mp3s where coming from these web servers and nobody seemed to be paying for anything. So they shut the site down. From the website:

Piano Society is temporarily off line.

The reason is that the swedish police by mistake took the Piano Society server in their attempt to catch possible illegal activity at http://thepiratebay.org/

Our server just happend to be hosted by the same co-location company and has of course no connection to the Pirat Bay. The swedish police admit their mistake and we are working for a solution and hope to have the site up at latest on sunday.

Sorry for the inconveniance.

It reminds me of a story about Redhat Linux in the UK being contacted by police and informed that somebody had been caught making copies of Redhat Linux. It took 20 minutes to convince the police that no only did Redhat not care, they actually encouraged people to make free copies.

The idea that you can legally get music or software for free clearly has some people very confused.

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Brussels, Belgium

May. 21st, 2006 | 02:15 pm

If we think of the political system in the US, images of the White House and the Capital Building come to mind. If we think of the political system in the UK, we can imagine 10 Downing Street or the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. But what about the EU Parliament? This is a building at the heart of a 25 nation union of some of the most wealthy countries on earth with a total population about to exceed half a billion people. But has anybody ever seen the EU Parliament? Or even a picture of it? I never had, and so while I was in Brussels I decided to find out what it looked like.

After getting a city map and hunting for a minute I located the EU Parliament, about 3 km from where I was staying. So off I went. After about half an hour walk finally I found it.

I present, the European Union Parliament:

Or from down the street,

I was expecting something a bit more classical old school European, but that was clearly all steel and glass. I think one reason why it's not well known is that it's hard to find a good place to get a picture of the building. It's really just one huge building connected to a mass of other equally huge buildings with no clear vantage point for taking photos.

One strange thing about the place was that you could really just walk up to the building and look in through the glass. I was expecting a place this important to have at least a 50 metre zone around it where you couldn't enter without going through a security check.

Even stranger was when I walked around the back. What do you expect to see behind the EU parliament... why, a small brick house of course!

I could see tables and chairs in the house, it looked like somebody may have actually lived there. How odd.

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