1000 Journals

The1000journalproject is an independent, privately funded social experiment. They are attempting to follow 1000 journals throughout their travels, to see where they go, who adds to them, and what happens after that. They’ve dropped them off all over the world, and its actually fascinating reading (even though not much info has trickled back to them). One of those ideas I wish I thought of…

There Can Be Only One

Well, shit. According to this article on evhead Blogger no longer has much support from, well, anybody but Ev. Everyone at Pyra was actually laid off back in December but stayed on out of hope and faith. Apparently things have fallen through and since people have to eat, they’ve finally parted ways. I guess I’ll just have to investigate Greymatter and hope Blogger will last for a little bit longer. I think its a shame, but it really doesn’t come as much of a suprise. You really can’t have 80,000 users of your software, charge nothing, and expect to make money. Hopefully Ev can get his act together and, as he cryptically mentioned at the end of his article, take it to the next level (making it…profound?).

The Laboratorium

This morning I discovered an uncommonly brilliant website called The Laboratorium. I suppose you could call it a “weblog”, but a cursory glance at its contents reveals a depth and breadth that most weblogs (including this one) severely lack (not to mention some excellent non-weblog content). The author, one James Grimmelmann, tackles current and relevant issues, but from a distinctive angle giving a truly unique perspective. Do yourself a favour and go through his archives so you can really appreciate his work. [found at Monstro]

Read My Mind

Mind reading. It seems fantastical, but it may be true. A team of Italian neurophysiologists have discovered so called “mirror” neurons in the brain which seem to be firing in sympathy, reflecting or perhaps simulating the actions of other people. For instance, if I were to slap myself in the face, a certain set of neurons in my brain would be firing in order to make this act of stupidity happen. And if you happen to witness my moronic act, the very same set of neurons will fire in your brain (though you won’t be slapping yourself silly). This discovery could go a long way in explaining things like why people are so damn imitative, how we developed language, and also why people can instantly understand how you are feeling just by observing your actions. Some people are referring to this as “mind reading”, but it seems to be acting more like an advanced simulation to me. Basically, when I observe someone doing something, my brain instinctively simulates the action (by firing the appropriate neurons) and makes conclusions based on what happens. Though it may not be mind reading, it is certainly a big step forward for psychologists.

An interesting side note regarding mind reading. Some people believe we have an innate but repressed form of mind reading that sometimes surfaces in the form of “intuition” or even physical illness when faced with danger. The human brain only operates at somewhere around 10-20% efficiency, with occasional jumps to 25-30% (which is usually referred to as intuition or revelation and is associated with a possible decline in physical health). For instance, take this entry found in Wierd but True:

“train wrecks: in train wrecks the number of passengers in damaged cars is less than average by so much and so often that it cannot be a chance occurrence. somehow we know not to get on them. (work done by william cox and reported by lyall watson)”

I’ve heard of similar statistics referring to airplanes as well. Many planes that crash are only half full; people who didn’t get on the plane just had a “bad feeling” about it or actually got sick and were unable to fly. What are our brains really capable of?

Mime Assaulted With Corndog Musket

MonkeyBagel.com is a funny site, especially for geeks and computer ilk like sysadmins. Take, for instance, this story, which is worth reading simply for his description of a Mime Assaulted With Corndog Musket (“…a short movie for you depicting a whimpering mime curled into a fetal ball, corndogs smacking wetly into his head.”). Or the wierd Mokeybagel Document (“Hey, I bought us a monkey! Let’s stick him in a bagel and then he’ll do our taxes!”). I laughed. You will too.

Faith in Mathematics

Why I Like Math By Matt Stone. Nice story of a man’s search for meaning and finding it through mathematics (“I became aware of an underlying superstructure that tied all my math knowledge together. “). Why is it that people think religion is only comforting? Comfort is one aspect of religion, yes, but it is not everything. In many cases, I would even go so far as to say that religion is no more comforting than any other system of beliefs (be it scientific, atheistic, agnostic, or, in this case, mathematics). My naive optimism has more to do with my happiness than my religion (then again, I suppose religion has infulenced my optimism). In the end, I don’t think religion is as important as most people think. It plays a small part in many aspects of life, but it does not (at least, it should not) dominate everthing. [via metascene]

A Conversation on Information

Umberto Eco is a professor of semiotics, philosophy and literature at the University of Bologna in Italy, and he is well known for his academic publications as well as popular fiction such as The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum (which I am currently reading). In this interview, Eco discusses the Internet, information overload and filtering, hypertext , hypermedia and virtual reality. He was very open minded and articulate in his descriptions and criticism of the internet and information filtering, especially given that the internet was not very developed at the time.

“I am not saying that Internet is, or will be a negative experience. I am saying on the contrary that it is a great chance. Once we have asserted this, I am trying to isolate the possible traps; the possible negative aspects.”

Much time is spent discussing information filtering, and why it is necessary to go about such things and how it becomes difficult on a system like the internet because the amount of options is often overwhelming (like going to google and typing Umberto Eco and getting back 61,200 results). Another topic is communities on the internet. He is enthusiastic at the possibilities but he adds that the information still must be filtered. You must choose which posts and authors you wish to read, and we often choose them randomly, but if we had a filter we could know which posts are important and which are crap. Regardless, he likes the idea of finding new ideas and perspectives through the internet community. “Is that a substitute for face-to-face contact and community? No, it isn’t!” Fascinating stuff.