Robert L. Park is a physics professor at the University of Maryland, and the author of Voodoo Science: The Road From Foolishness To Fraud. He has written a wonderful short article on how to recognize scientific nonsense – an important skill for all of us in these confusing times.
“The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is investing close to a million dollars in an obscure Russian scientist’s antigravity machine, although it has failed every test and would violate the most fundamental laws of nature. The Patent and Trademark Office recently issued Patent 6,362,718 for a physically impossible motionless electromagnetic generator, which is supposed to snatch free energy from a vacuum.
More interesting reading: this Slate article casts a jaundiced eye at the “National Strategy To Secure Cyberspace” pushed out by the Bush administration last month. Part of a broader strategy to fill the airwaves and the public consciousness with FUD – “fear, uncertainty and doubt,” this time by painting a picture of computer-savvy regimes ready to knock out our electricity and phone lines and electric blankets from their remote terminals. Except that the purported incidents in the past are misrepresented or overstated, the threat in the future appears to be remote, and the proposed solutions are lame. (Well, some of them might be effective if the federal government can construct a working monolithic data warehouse cross-indexing every activity in the daily lives of every US citizen and a fair number of people in other parts of the world – a computer project so huge and difficult it dwarfs anything ever before attempted. […] continued
CNET Radio (AM 910) has been my constant companion for the last year or more. It’s delivered technology news and talk all day, every day – and now it’s closing up the radio station on January 31. Sad news for anyone who had stumbled on its wonderful programming in the San Francisco area, or nationwide on XM Radio. (Rob Black’s commentary on investing and the stock market is addictive.) Driving around goes back to being dull. Sniff. […] continued
An article in today’s Washington Post reviews some of the major decisions the Federal Communications Commission will be making in the next few months, moves that could fundamentally rewrite the rules for the broadcast media and Internet service providers. The likely result is that a handful of mega-corporations will control virtually all aspects of our entertainment and our online experiences. There is no reason to think that this will be an improvement for consumers; instead, there’s a strong possibility that prices will rise, new tolls will be charged at every opportunity, and restrictions will be placed on your ability to access “competing” content. […] continued
With the raging popularity of the Nigerian e-mail scam (see my writeup and links on October 24), a new sport has sprung up – Nigerian fraudster baiting, leading the scammers on the road to ridicule.
Here’s a wonderful example – an exchange of e-mails between “Dr. Graham Douglas” in Nigeria, and gullible victim Norman Bettison. As the Nigerian fraudster gets more and more excited, “Normy” makes his messages more and more ludicrous, until the story ends with Normy purportedly locked in a Houston hotel room with a dead prostitute, awaiting documents from Nigeria. Funny stuff. […] continued
Getting ready for The Two Towers? Here’s an early look from Time Magazine, which notes that “Fellowship was often quiet and deliberately paced. Two Towers is an unabashed action film.” They predict that we’ll like it even more than the first film.
There’s no introduction in The Two Towers, no prologue to remind you where the first film left off. The new “extended” DVD edition of Fellowship of the Ring is available now, with an additional thirty minutes of footage. (You didn’t get fooled and buy the original DVD release a few months ago, did you?) The extended edition is spread over four discs, and it includes a free movie ticket to The Two Towers if you see it before December 31 – which makes it a steal for $26. […] continued
MSNBC has a wonderful article about an unexpected side effect of global warming – huge ice blocks, 22 lbs or more, which form in the upper atmosphere on clear days and fall to earth, smashing car windshields and ripping holes in houses. Don’t look at me like that – I’m serious. Here’s the article if you don’t believe me. […] continued
Google is bringing its remarkable technology to harvesting the news. Here’s a link to Google News, presenting the top news stories of the moment without any human intervention. Google News software continuously crawls more than 4,000 Web news sources, looking for the most relevant articles from the most reputable sources. The Google software then automatically generates news pages for its various section fronts. New front pages appear every 12 minutes or so.
Here’s an article about the new service and how it compares to the pages produced by humans at CNN, MSNBC, and the online newspapers. If you’re addicted to breaking news, Google News will instantly become your first stop on the web. […] continued
The Press Democrat just did a feature about the abbreviations invented for text messaging – they’re becoming second nature to many kids, and teachers are seeing them turn up in school assignments. FYI, here’s a dictionary that covers many of the basic text messaging abbreviations FWIW. If U R like me, it will make you feel old. Kind of a PITA. ROFL!
That doesn’t scare you? Go take a look at an online dictionary of l33t terms used by the hacker community. “LE3T 5PE4K I5 wH3N j00 +4Lk l1kE THi5. t0 uNDEr$+@ND j00 mu5+ Be l3e+. 1pH jo0 4RE noT lEeT jo0 C4Nnot SPe@K or rE4d tH1$.” I was running across nonsense like this frequently as I surfed during the last couple of years. […] continued