Category Archives: Technology and Society

The Past Brought By The Future

Long-time readers know that I’m not real big on the “spin-off” argument for funding space exploration and technology. Still, when something like this happens, it’s certainly a nice side effect.

Since it was unearthed more than a century ago, the hoard of documents known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri has fascinated classical scholars. There are 400,000 fragments, many containing text from the great writers of antiquity. But only a small proportion have been read so far. Many were illegible.

Now scientists are using multi-spectral imaging techniques developed from satellite technology to read the papyri at Oxford University’s Sackler Library. The fragments, preserved between sheets of glass, respond to the infra-red spectrum – ink invisible to the naked eye can be seen and photographed.

Robots And Supervolcanoes

On Tuesday, I noted that someone needs to categorize and prioritize all the things that might kill us. Well, someone must have read my post, because the Guardian has done just that. The Daily Ablution has the story.

I’ll chime in with Glenn and others, and note that I also welcome our robot overlords.

I disagree, though, that there’s nothing we can do about supervolcanoes (at least in terms of preserving humanity). Having an economically independent and genetically diverse population off planet will at least preserve the species against such an event. That won’t help with gamma ray bursts though. This list is a little terracentric, in that it doesn’t distinguish between those events that would be a problem just for the earth (e.g., a supervolcano eruption) and those that would be more comprehensive (e.g., gamma rays, or obstreperous robots). By the way, does the robot scenario encompass gray goo?

Anyway, they need to rectify this.

[Tax day morning update]

Phil Bowermaster has all the solutions.

Brilliant Morons

Who are the geniuses who think that a web site has to use the latest and greatest technology in order to accomplish a basic function? There’s nothing I love better than going to some site (like, for example, Bell South’s) to test my internet speed, and then to wait a long time for a page to appear to be doing something, and then be informed that the test can’t be run because I don’t have plug-in “X” installed.

Now plugin X is obviously not required to test an internet connection speed, or to display it, because I can find numerous other sites that will do this for me without requiring a plugin. The poor benighted neanderthals who designed those web sites apparently figured out how to do it with standard HTML, because it seems to work in all my browsers.

Self-indulgent whiz kids who think they’re doing us some kind of favor by insisting on bells and whistles on their web sites should ask themselves: how many people visiting their site will be pissed off if they don’t encounter a need for zippywhammo plugin “X” on their site? I mean, this isn’t we’re talking about here.

Now, ask how many people who are trying to get their technical question answered, but can’t because the poindexters who designed the web sites make them go off and download and install software (on a slow network connection, which is what they’re trying to diagnose and fix) before they’ll get the answer, will get pissed off?

Think about it, brainiacs.