Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Time for another Tab Dump!

I'm laid up today, recovering from a minor surgerical operation, and you benefit because it's gives me the time to present you with another tab dump! As always, i'd love to write more about these items but just haven't been able to scrape together the time.
  • Like TNC, I'd love for the iPad to have a real competitor, if only so that the prices might drop enough so that I could afford one. Alas, Jakob Nielsen, one of the best usability experts out there (highly recommend subscribing to his newsletter!) "denounced the [amazon] Fire, saying it offered 'a disappointingly poor' experience. For users whose fingers are not as slender as toothpicks, he warned, the screen could be particularly frustrating to manipulate. "I feel the Fire is going to be a failure," Mr. Nielsen, of the Nielsen Norman Group, a Silicon Valley consulting firm, said in an interview. "I can't recommend buying it."
  • Not that I’d ever watch the show, but pulling adverts from the All-American Muslim "reality" show just because the conservative Florida Family Association says that the show is “...propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values” is just madness. Shame on Lowes for succumbing to the bigots.
  • Never underestimate the power of money when it comes to stealing personal and public property for private profit when natural resources are involved. Case in point: Pennsylvania. As Atrios says: “My first thought when I heard about the natural gas discoveries in PA was,'uh oh, we're fucked.'”
  • Harvard physicist Lisa Randall talks about extra dimensions: “There could be more to the universe than the three dimensions we are familiar with. They are hidden from us in some way, perhaps because they're tiny or warped. But even if they're invisible, they could affect what we actually observe in the universe. There are lots of things we cannot see with the naked eye that turn out to be based in reality. ... our idea is there's an extra dimension that's so warped, the masses would be big in one place and small in another. In other words, gravity could be weaker in one place and stronger in another. If so, it could be a natural explanation both for why particles masses are what they are, and why gravity is so much weaker than the other elementary forces we observe.”
  • How animals see color. The most interesting are birds:
    “Birds… possess rich color vision, in many cases better than our own. Most birds have four cone visual pigments, although this varies. In general, birds have an additional ultraviolet pigment in their cones and many more cones than we have. Furthermore the visual pigments that would be similar to ours span different wavelengths. Their visual experience is richer than our own in ways impossible to describe or understand. Not only do they see more colors, but the interpretation of colors would be different. Think of combining different colors of paint—if you combine more colors radiating from the same object, like a flower, you will see different colors. A hummingbird, then, would see a red flower as a different color because of the ultraviolet channel input.
    You may ask what good are these extra color channels in birds? Of course, it’s hard to know completely since we can’t even understand the perception of the color “ultraviolet,” but here is an example. When a mouse is being hunted by a hawk, it will often urinate out of fear and to make itself as light as possible for escape. Mouse urine radiates ultraviolet and that actually helps the hawk follow the mouse trail. Fresher urine radiates more ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet arrow will point to lunch for the hawk.”
  • Sounds Good to Me Too - one of the best music blogs out there - have started to post their best albums of the year
  • Why we invented monsters. This article is one big slice of awesome, combining a treasure trove of bizarre myths ("In Aboriginal myth, there is a creature with the body of a human, the head of a snake, and the suckers of an octopus") with an analysis of the best monster of all - the dragon. In short, "anthropologist David E. Jones argues that the image of the dragon is composed of the salient body parts of three predator species that hunted and killed our tree-dwelling African primate ancestors for about sixty million years ... the leopard, the python, and the eagle. ... ancient primates evolved alarm calls to identify each of the three predators, with each call triggering the defensive response appropriate to the nature of the attack mode of the specific predator. ... [these creatures] were merged into a hybrid creature that had the salient predatory features of each: the face of a feline, the body of a snake, and the talons of a raptor. ...Because the image combined features from three dominant predators, it could quickly send the neural message very dangerous animal."

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