Recently in CONTEXT

Friday, October 22, 2021

How Virtual Worlds Work—Part 4, Objects and Behaviours

Posted at 11:38 Permalink

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Ducks in a Row

The full paper is “Wave-riding and wave-passing by ducklings in formation swimming”.

Posted at 12:13 Permalink

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Boeing's Starliner Is a Mess—But What Were the Alternatives?

Posted at 14:19 Permalink

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

David Friedman and James Bennett on Property Rights in Space

Posted at 11:30 Permalink

Monday, October 18, 2021

Magnetic Mysteries—The “Simple Magnetic Over-Unity Toy”

Ignoring potential energy is the source of much confusion and “inspiration” to designers of perpetual motion machines of the first kind. Simple experiments with magnets demonstrate how confusing and deceptive it can be when all energy flows are not accounted for. Fortunately, physicists, engineers, and patent examiners have learned to approach claims of “over unity” (something for nothing) with extreme scepticism. Now if we could just get the economists and politicians on board.

Posted at 11:32 Permalink

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Melting Nuclear Waste to the Earth's Mantle

Here is the 2011 paper, “Self-Sinking Capsules to Investigate Earth’s Interior and Dispose of Radioactive Waste”. Full text is available at the ResearchGate site. The first paragraph of the paper is:

Technical experts, science fiction writers, and environmental advocates have all famously considered a self-descending spherical body in a melting environment not as a solution but as a problem. In connection with nuclear reactor core meltdown, this phenomenon is the so-called China Syndrome. Let’s step back and consider the China Syndrome as a solution.

Posted at 12:20 Permalink

Saturday, October 16, 2021

A Zoologist Contemplates Alien Life

Might convergent evolution and the limited number of biomechanical solutions to the needs of life result in alien life being no more weird than what we find on Earth? (Although if you look at some of the critters that inhabit the ocean, that's already pretty weird.) Dr Kershenbaum's book is The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy.

Posted at 11:14 Permalink

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Agoric Approach to Computing

Agoric computing is a concept of structuring computation and business systems around the model of a free market, supplanting traditional systems which often resemble top-down, centrally planned economies. It encompasses smart contracts, which are central to the emerging field of decentralised finance (DeFi), which is not entirely 100% scams and pyramid schemes, despite how it may appear. In this 42 minute long conversation, the CEO and Chief Scientist of Agoric Systems Operating Company trace the history of smart contracts back to the pioneering work at the American Information Exchange (AMIX) in the 1980s (backed by Autodesk from 1988 through 1992), describe how smart contracts are integrated with blockchain technology, and explain why they have chosen JavaScript as the language on which to build their technology.

Posted at 12:18 Permalink

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Visiting a Server Farm in Germany

Posted at 11:38 Permalink

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

What Did Dinosaurs Really Look Like?

Artist C. M. Kosemen has drawn modern animals as they might be reconstructed from their skeletons alone: “Nightmarish sketches reveal what modern animals would look like if we drew them in the same way as dinosaurs based on their skeletons”.

Posted at 14:28 Permalink

Float-Through McDonald's

You'll never guess in which German city it's located.

Posted at 13:17 Permalink

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Why Do Bees Make Rhombic Dodecahedrons?

Posted at 14:39 Permalink

Monday, October 11, 2021

Linkage Mechanism Converts Binary to Decimal

Posted at 14:15 Permalink

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Edward Snowden on “Central Bank Digital Currencies”

Central Bank Digital Currencies or, as I like to call them, “slave money”, are a hot topic among globalists and other would-be slavers. Just imagine how wonderful it will be when your government can confiscate your cash remotely with the click of a mouse, control the things on which you can spend it, or keep you from spending it entirely if you have done something of which they disapprove. I have been warning about this ever since my “Unicard: Ubiquitous Computation, Global Connectivity, and the End of Privacy” paper in 1994, which was considered dystopian science fiction at the time.

In a few years, countries that aspire to economically enslave their populations won't even have to develop their own systems for doing so—they'll be able to buy it off the shelf as a turnkey system from China, integrated with the “social credit” system.

Posted at 12:34 Permalink

Saturday, October 9, 2021

How Virtual Worlds Work—Part 3, Digital Objects

Posted at 12:49 Permalink

Friday, October 8, 2021

“Slowed Canonical Progress in Large Fields of Science”


In many academic fields, the number of papers published each year has increased significantly over time. Policy measures aim to increase the quantity of scientists, research funding, and scientific output, which is measured by the number of papers produced. These quantitative metrics determine the career trajectories of scholars and evaluations of academic departments, institutions, and nations. Whether and how these increases in the numbers of scientists and papers translate into advances in knowledge is unclear, however. Here, we first lay out a theoretical argument for why too many papers published each year in a field can lead to stagnation rather than advance. The deluge of new papers may deprive reviewers and readers the cognitive slack required to fully recognize and understand novel ideas. Competition among many new ideas may prevent the gradual accumulation of focused attention on a promising new idea. Then, we show data supporting the predictions of this theory. When the number of papers published per year in a scientific field grows large, citations flow disproportionately to already well-cited papers; the list of most-cited papers ossifies; new papers are unlikely to ever become highly cited, and when they do, it is not through a gradual, cumulative process of attention gathering; and newly published papers become unlikely to disrupt existing work. These findings suggest that the progress of large scientific fields may be slowed, trapped in existing canon. Policy measures shifting how scientific work is produced, disseminated, consumed, and rewarded may be called for to push fields into new, more fertile areas of study.

Here is the full paper, “Slowed canonical progress in large fields of science”. I repeat my frequent observation, “Once Pareto gets into your head, you'll never get him out.”

Posted at 14:06 Permalink

Thursday, October 7, 2021

The “I Can't Believe It Can Sort” Algorithm

The abstract: “We present an extremely simple sorting algorithm. It may look like it is obviously wrong, but we prove that it is in fact correct. We compare it with other simple sorting algorithms, and analyse some of its curious properties.” Here is the full text, “Is this the simplest (and most surprising) sorting algorithm ever?” [PDF].

Posted at 12:54 Permalink

Cryptocurrency vs. Kleptocurrency

Here's the chart, in case you'd like to edit it or compare to other time series.

Posted at 01:15 Permalink

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Reading List: Escape the City, Vol. 1

Corcoran, Travis J. I. Escape the City, Vol. 1. New Hampshire: Morlock Publishing, 2021. ISBN 979-874270303-7.
In early 2014, the author and his wife left the suburbs of Boston and moved to a 56 acre homestead in rural New Hampshire. Before arriving, he had done extensive reading and research, but beyond the chores of a suburban homeowner, had little or no hands-on experience with the myriad skills required to make a go of it in the country: raising and preserving garden vegetables; maintaining pastures; raising chickens, sheep, and hogs, including butchering and processing their meat; erecting utility buildings; planting and maintaining a fruit orchard; tapping maple trees and producing syrup from their sap; managing a wood lot, felling and processing trees, storing and aging firewood and heating with it; and maintaining a tractor, implements, chainsaws, and the many tools which are indispensable to farm life. The wisdom about how tradesmen and contractors work in the country in the section “Life in The Country: Cultural Fit: Scheduling” would have been worth more than the modest price of the book had I learned it before spending a decade and a half figuring it out for myself after my own escape from the city in 1992.

This massive work (653 large pages in print) and its companion Volume 2 are an encyclopedic compendium of lessons learned and an absolutely essential resource for anybody interested in self-sufficient living, whether as a “suburbanite in the country”, “gardener with chickens”, “market gardener”, “homesteader”, or “commercial farmer”, all five of which are discussed in the book.

The Kindle edition is free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. The numerous illustrations are in black and white in print editions, but colour in the Kindle version.

Posted at 21:14 Permalink

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Transparent Monsters: Underestimating the Human Potential

This is a good introduction to what I call the “human endowment”—a future in which humans and their descendants will bring life, consciousness, and purpose to a solar system and beyond which awaits them. David Deutsch's The Beginning of Infinity is an excellent introduction to humans as “universal explainers” and the consequences of that for the cosmos.

Posted at 12:26 Permalink