Category archives: Polis

Politics and the business of living with others RSS

Hyperloop Read-through

So somehow instead of working tonight I found myself reading through the Hyperloop plans from Elon Musk. Basically it's a very-low-pressure, but not true vacuum, steel tube held up on pylons from LA to San Francisco.  Linear accelerators (magnets) push cars through the tube by acting on aluminium blades on the bottom of the cars.  The secret sauce, as it were, is to have a big electric fan on the front of the cars that sucks any air stuck in front of the car through an exhaust tube (and into a storage chamber). There's actually a lot of ...

Continue reading

Why would you delete (valid) pages on Wikipedia?

Why the heck is wikipedia *deleting* articles for not being universally notable rather than simply assigning a "notability" level to them?  It's a computer system, and you store all of the revisions anyway, so why delete something rather than simply marking it less-widely relevant (and thereby decreasing search-result ranks and the like)?  I gather somebody drank the cool-aide a bit too much and started thinking of Wikipedia as a paper book with limited space that should only cover high-school-level knowledge.

Here's a suggestion: instead of a deletion, mark with "relevant to a given group/tag", such as "This ...

Continue reading

From where the short posts come...

Have been seeing weirdly trivial blog-post spam lately.  Someone will post a single-line comment that is entirely generic, no real content, just a bland "nice post" or "thanks for the article" where the user's URL is a link to what looks like a SEO page.

Turns out that there's a set of sites that "markets" collections of "Do Follow" (i.e. those not rewriting links with the no-follow attribute) enabled blogs, where the purchasers are asked to stump up cash and post "useful" messages to the blogs involved so that they don't exhaust the resource (i.e ...

Continue reading

50 Year Nukes, Good Governance, Prosperity and Education

Headed out to the "Net Change Week" event this evening.  Got to ranting to Alfonso before the presentations about a few of my pet theories and wound up with this chain:

  • we've got a maximum of maybe 50 years before any rogue nation or disgruntled group can acquire the knowledge required to create nuclear weapons
  • we could attempt to police all nations, all groups, all teens in their basement to block anyone from producing nuclear weapons... it doesn't seem practical, though we may have to try anyway
  • given that policing likely isn't sufficient, we likely need to ...

Continue reading

Something that was dropped in the debate...


Some thoughts on the Canadian elections under way:

    o C's response to job losses in Ontario and Quebec
          o "Last place to invest"
          o We'll create jobs elsewhere (read: Alberta)
          o Encourage low-value export of raw materials because that makes money today

          o We've created more jobs than we've lost (read: service jobs (low-pay) and resource-export jobs)
          o "Let Ontario and Quebec hang, get as much as possible from them for Alberta" seems to be the party policy
    o C's response to environment
          o Percentage efficiency targets (read: pump more, pollute more, but reduce the ...

Continue reading

Look, but don't worry about them...

One of my colleagues was mentioning a book he'd read in which the author claimed that the most important thing we should be doing was figuring out a way to deflect "killer asteroids" (I assume or meteorites) intent upon destroying the Earth.  The author was apparently saying our greatest need as a society was to prepare our giant flyswatter and have it standing at-the-ready because we might only have a few weeks of warning.  He was apparently claiming that the failure to redeploy the world's resources into this grand task was a sign of lack of vision and ...

Continue reading

TED seems skipable


Wanted something to stretch my mind a little this evening, so I figured I'd listen to some of the lectures from the TED conference.  Started off with "The Universe on a String", "Open Source Economics" and "Bringing World Class Health Care"... and was rather non-plussed.  From the depth and tone of the talks I gather TED is pretty much generalists and people who aren't particularly widely read; can't say the talks really taught me anything new at all.  No mind stretches this evening I suppose.

Continue reading

Nuclear Genies and Racism

Had a conversation a little while back that keeps echoing.  The topic was a mildly racist event of some sort, I don't particularly remember what.  The key question was this: "what's the big deal?"  After all, the event didn't particularly change anyone's life.  My answer at the time was along these lines: "the (nuclear) genie is out of the bottle, within 50 years any group on the planet can likely get hold of weapons that can render whole countries uninhabitable".

We've got lots of rouge states with old nukes.  We've got barely stable states ...

Continue reading

Canadian DMCA

Won't spend much time on this, since others are covering it far better than I.  Suffice it to say that if you are Canadian and don't want to let the government sneak in a major trojan horse to take away your freedoms you probably want to look into the new bill that has been introduced.  It's apparently pretending to be giving all sorts of rights while taking them away with the fine print. Michael Geist is covering it extensively.

Continue reading

Guiding Hands

Interesting chat with one of our friends this evening. We were batting around the big problems of the day; energy crisis, resource exhaustion, pollution, that kind of thing and looking at the various solutions proposed and possible.

One thing kept coming up, namely the fact that as energy prices soar, alternatives become more affordable comparatively and more time and interest focusses on solving the problem. Which sounds a lot like the magical guiding hand of Adam Smith taking care of us, if only we would be dispassionate voracious consumers interested solely in our own narrow self-interest.

Indeed, a lot of ...

Continue reading