The technologies of days past and days future

PZ has made a post about a video about Zebrafish development, which originally came out on VHS. He made a throwaway comment “If you don’t know what that is, ask your grandparents”, which got me to think about VHS tapes, and what technologies similar to those, that I have seen the rise and fall of in my lifetime.

Off-hand I can think of:

Video-media

  • Betamax
  • VHS
  • DVD (to some degree)
  • Laserdisk
  • HD-DVD

Audio-media

  • Tape (well, didn’t see the rise, just the fall)
  • Compact Discs/CDs (to some degree)
  • MiniDisk (very limited rise)
  • Digital Compact Cassette/DCC (very limited rise)
  • Digital Audio Tape/DAT (very limited rise)

LPs could probably be included in this list, though I didn’t experience their rise, and the final part of their decline seems to be stretching out.

Storage media

  • 5¼-inch Floppy Disk (well, didn’t see the rise, just the fall)
  • 3½-inch Floppy Disk
  • CD-ROM
  • CD-RW
  • DLT (very limited rise)
  • Zip drive (very limited rise)
  • DVD (as a computer media)
  • DVD-RW

Picture types

  • Slides
  • Polaroids (which has made a comeback)
  • Disposable cameras (their niche was pretty much killed by the cameras in phones)

I could continue, mentioning things like different computer types (C64, Amiga etc.), technologies (cordless phones, anyone?), file formats (remember when BMP was king?) and so on.

These lists indicate how much things have changed since in my lifetime, but they only show part of the picture. What they don’t show is how widespread many technologies have become compared to the past. Yes, I did come across 5¼-inch Floppy Disks, but they were hardly a normal household item, like e.g. USB sticks are these days.

Those of us who were born in the seventies and eighties have experienced some major changes, most notable the world wide web and the mobile phone, which has been incredible game changers, for better and worse. When I graduated high school in 1993, it was hard to imagine how the world would look 25 years later, and a lot of the work avaliable now, couldn’t be imagined back then (and a lot of the secure work back then, has since become redundant).

This is something I think is important to remember.

I think most of us groan when we see yet another article complaining about the Millennials, but it is worth remembering that these are usually written by people who haven’t kept up with the development – usually because they don’t have to, since they are secure in their debt-free houses and jobs. If their jobs suddenly becomes threatened, they are quick to blame others (e.g. Millennials, immigrants, robots), rather than facing the possibility that they have become obsolete, much like the many of the media types I mention above.

So, where am I going with this? Well, basically, I am trying to say that it is fun to try to look back and see what you have experienced, and what has changed in your lifetime, but I think it is more important to look forward, and try to keep up, and develop, along side with the technology. The type setters became obsolete, because their function were taken over by the computers – this was not something that was generally considered a possibility, until it suddenly happened (the speed was helped along by the behavior of the type setters, who by all accords were quite difficult to work with for everyone else).

In other words, it might be worth looking around at the technology you are dependent on today, and try to figure out what alternatives there are in the future, and see if you can start preparing for either the change (e.g. reading up on the new technology), or for moving elsewhere in your career (get qualifications needed for new positions). It is not easy, but unfortunately, most of us are not in positions where we have much of a choice.

Upcoming Copenhagen Skeptics in the Pub schedule

Copenhagen Skeptics in the Pub has its schedule in place for the next few months, so I thought I’d share it here.

All the talks are in Danish, and takes place at Café Nutid. Cafe Nutid is usually closed on Mondays, so they opens up about half an hour before the talk starts.

March 13, 19:30 – Eftertro – hvad sker der, når man forlader sin religion?

Denne aften adskiller sig lidt fra tidligere arrangementer. Vi får besøg af to oplægsholdere, der vil præsentere sig selv og netværket Eftertro, der tilbyder rådgivning for mennesker, der har forladt deres religion. Denne aften bliver vi klogere på, hvordan det opleves at vende ryggen til noget så centralt som ens grundlæggende verdensopfattelse, hvad man mister, og hvordan man kommer videre.

Vi får besøg af to repræsentanter: Maria Brock er tidligere mormon og har været muslimsk gift, og Simon Ørregaard er tidligere Jehovas Vidne.

April 10, 19:30 – Hanne Strager: Darwin – et beskedent geni

Hanne Strager vil komme og snakke om Darwin.

May 8, 19:30 – Jesper Vind: Moral blandt andre dyr

Moral blandt mennesker har været diskuteret i tusindvis af år blandt filosoffer. Men er det kun mennesket, som kan udføre moralske handlinger? Hør om hvorledes moral kan defineres naturvidenskabeligt, samt hvordan man kan tolke andre dyrs bevidste handlinger, som moralske. Der bliver masser at diskutere.

Jesper Vind er biolog og ph.d. i molekylærbiologi.

June 12, 19:30 –Søren Brostrøm: Sundhedsdirektøren kigger i krystalkuglen

Sundhedsområdet optager alle og er altid at finde på en top 3 over de vigtigste politikområder for danskerne. Sundhedsvæsenet er i voldsom forandring med centralisering og store supersygehuse, robotteknologi, dyre lægemidler osv., men følger udviklingen med i det nære sundhedsvæsen udenfor sygehusene? Kan sundhedspersonalet følge med i de stigende forventninger til både faglighed og produktivitet? Og hvorfor skal vi være bekymret for det postfaktuelle på sundhedsområdet? Kom og hør med når topchefen for den øverste sundhedsfaglige myndighed kigger i krystalkuglen. Det bliver ikke kedeligt!

Søren Brostrøm er direktør for Sundhedsstyrelsen. Han er 51 år, speciallæge i gynækologi og obstetrik, og var indtil han i 2011 blev ansat i Sundhedsstyrelsen overlæge på Herlev Hospital og lektor ved Københavns Universitet.

We are working on the schedule for the rest of the year, so keep an eye on the facebook page.

Advice to government employees

Cross-posted at the Resistance blog

Slate has a article by Ian Samuel, explaining the legal situation for government employees. Samuel is a lecturer on law at Harvard Law School and a former law clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia. The whole article is worth reading, but the last two paragraphs are the most important ones

Of course, asserting your legal rights and standing up to the government you work for aren’t always easy and come with substantial risks. (For one thing, a court might end up agreeing with the Trump administration that its orders were perfectly lawful.) The wise civil servant who was ready to refuse a Trump executive order would do well to talk with a lawyer beforehand. That’s why I’ve offered to represent, pro bono, any government official who refuses to execute a Trump order on the grounds that the order is illegal. A huge number of other lawyers—in particular, professors Daniel Epps (of Washington University in St. Louis) and Leah Litman (of the University of California–Irvine)—have offered their services as well, as have countless other lawyers, paralegals, law students, legal secretaries, and even (my favorite) a bartender in Cleveland.

No government program or White House command is self-executing. It takes thousands and thousands of people, distributed throughout the country, to transform an illegal order into an injustice. These loyal civil servants were there before President Trump arrived and they will mostly be there when he’s gone. Are you one of them? If so: The American system provides you with a choice. You can insist that you were just following orders. Or you can follow the law.

So, if you are a government employee who think that you have gotten an illegal order, there are resources available for you to draw upon. Please use them.

Please donate to “Defense against Carrier SLAPP Suit” GoFundMe

It is not a secret that Richard Carrier has sued this blog network, the Orbit, Skepticon, and several individuals for libel. While most people consider the lawsuit completely groundless, it still requires some legal work to get the case dismissed, and this, unfortunately, costs money.

As the GoFundMe states:

Dr. Richard Carrier is suing us for reporting  on his well-known allegations of misconduct. These allegations were widely reported on throughout the community, including by third-parties both critical and sympathetic to him who are not themselves defendants.

This lawsuit has all the hallmarks of a SLAPP suit — a lawsuit filed to stifle legitimate criticism and commentary. The named defendants are Skepticon, The Orbit, and Freethought Blogs – as well as individuals Lauren Lane, the lead organizer of Skepticon; Stephanie Zvan, a blogger for The Orbit; PZ Myers, a blogger for Freethought Blogs; and Amy Frank-Skiba, who publicly posted her first-hand allegations against Carrier.

We need your help to keep our voices alive. All the defendants are represented by the same attorney, First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza. Randazza is providing his services at a significant discount, but we are not asking him to work for free. Plus, there are thousands of dollars in “costs” for the case that don’t include legal bills, and there is no way to discount those. In order to continue fighting this lawsuit, we, the defendants of this case, have put together this campaign to raise money to defray our costs, some of which is outstanding.

If you have some money to spare, please help fight this suit.

The self-purge has started

I just came across this on my twitter feed: Kara Goldin, CEO of hint water [sic], has resigned from the National Advisory Council On Innovation And Entrepreneurship (NACIE).

She explains her reasons:

I am resigning from NACIE because I believe that we now have a President that has no interest in advice, that is pursuing power as an end in and of itself and that has no intention of solving real problems or creating real opportunities for the people of this great nation. More importantly, as the leader of an innovative company that’s helping America get healthier, I feel a deep obligation to our employees, our investors and our customers to distance myself from the sexism, racism, protectionism and hate that has defined the Trump administration’s first days in office.

Hint is made up of men, women (over 50%), straight people, LGBT people, small people, large people, hispanic people, jewish/christian/muslim people, white people and black people. We are all Americans and we are proud of our country and its values.

The last thing that I want to do is have you think that I would be supporting an administration that is working against the values that I believe as an American that are the key to entrepreneurship.

Kara Goldin joined NACIE under Obama, so it is perhaps not so surprising that she would leave, but for her to state the reasons so bluntly is rather remarkable.

This, of course, follows Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, leaving Trump’s business advisory council. This decision was driven by the #DeleteUber campaign, but it demonstrates that American CEOs find the cost of being pals with Trump too high, and decide that it is not worth it.

Not everyone appears to feel that way – Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, is still part of the business advisory council. A lot of people believe that this might have something to do with the nearly $5 billion dollars his companies get in in government subsidies. I am not a great fan of Musk for a number of reasons, but until now, I believed he held some principles. This doesn’t appear to be the case. I hope that this will have consequences for him and his businesses. I know for certain that I will remember to bring up his ties to Trump, every time people are mindlessly repeating his claims in the future.

Going back to the people leaving the different councils – I think we will see many people do that in the coming weeks. Most will probably do it fairly quietly, but some will feel the need to clearly distance themselves from Trump.

The Neolithic transition in the Baltic region

Through ScienceDaily, I have just come across an interesting open access paper in Current Biology The Neolithic Transition in the Baltic Was Not Driven by Admixture with Early European Farmers

The paper takes a look at the driving force between Neolithic transition in the Baltic and parts of Ukraine, where the Neolithic transition happened later than in Western and Central Europe. The paper describes the Neolithic transitions and the context for the paper thus:

In Europe, the Neolithic transition marked the beginning of a period of innovations that saw communities shift from a mobile lifestyle, dependent on hunting and gathering for survival, to a more sedentary way of life based on food production. This new lifeway, which originated in the Near East ∼11,500 calibrated years before present (cal BP) [5, 6], had arrived in southeast Europe by ∼8,500 cal BP [7], from where it spread quickly across the continental interior of Europe and introduced animal husbandry, cultivated cereals, pottery, and ground stone tools to the region. There is a long-standing debate among archaeologists whether this spread was due to the dispersal of farmers into new lands (i.e., demic diffusion) or horizontal cultural transmission [8]. Genetic evidence suggests that these cultural and technological changes were accompanied by profound genomic transformation, consistent with the migration of people of most likely Anatolian origin [9, 10, 11, 12]. In contrast to central Europe, the adoption of agriculture in northern and eastern parts of this continent, in the areas which encompass modern-day Latvia and Ukraine, was slow and relatively recent [13, 14, 15, 16]. Although some features of the Neolithic package, such as ceramics, appeared as early as 8,500–7,500 cal BP [17, 18], agriculture was not adopted as a primary subsistence economy until the Late Neolithic/Bronze Age [13, 14, 15, 16, 19].

So, in other words, the Neolithic transition has generally be found to be caused by outsiders immigration into the region, taking the technology with them. The question was, whether that was also the case for those regions which changed later.

According to the paper, the analysis shows that there were little genomic transformation in the area studied, leading to the conclusion that the technology was transferred through trade rather than through immigration into the area.

It is quite interesting to see how the fairly new genetic analysis techniques are used to settle old discussions in different fields – here archaeology.

 

On the tactics on punching Nazis

I am a bit late to the party, but I thought that I’d comment a bit on Richard Spencer getting punched in front of TV cameras

A lot of debate has been going since then, about whether it was acceptable to do so, and if, whether it was good tactics to do so in front of cameras.

Well, legally, it is clearly not acceptable, since it is assault. Morally, on the other hand, I personally don’t have a problem with someone literately advocating genocide and/or promoting an ideology which is based upon genocide getting punched. Some people tries to make the slippery slope argument, asking when it is OK and when it is not, implying that next step will be to punch granny because she voted for Trump. Well, no – the line is clear – if you directly promotes either genocide or an ideology based upon genocide, then it is acceptable. It might be acceptable to punch other groups, based on other clear criteria, but it doesn’t mean that anyone remotely related to the first group get punched.

And it is not like people hasn’t tried to debate Richard Spencer before.

On the tactics parts.

Some people think it might be a bad idea to punch Spencer in front of the TV cameras, as it allows him to play martyr, and others to claim that the left is just as bad as the right. I will concede that there is some truth to that concern, but I still think it is a good idea. Nazis and other white supremacists won’t go away if you play nice with them – maybe they will on an individual level, but not as a group/movement.

Every time someone has gotten rid of Nazis, it has required people to stand up to them physically.

Why should we believe that this is any different? Especially when they’ve got direct influence on the White House, and backing by senior members of the Trump staff?

No, the only way to get them to stop promoting their hate, is to show them that they are not accepted – this can be done through demonstrations, but it can also be done by the means of punching them, when a TV channel gives them a platform.

Or as I stated on Twitter, just after it happened:

So, in other words, I find the tactics of punching Nazis in front of camera effective in the sense that it will make the Nazis crawl back into the shadows, and stop them spreading their ideology. Given this, it could be argued that it is actually more effective tactics to punch Spencer in front on rolling cameras than away from the camera.

 

Lazy linking

I’ve come across a bunch of links that I thought my interest other people

First a bit of science geekery

What happens when a bullet hits an ‘unbreakable’ Prince Rupert’s drop

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Prince Rupert’s drop, this weird, scientific enigma is a glass object that’s created by dripping molten glass into very cold water.

That process creates all kinds of crazy physical properties, which we’ll go into later, but the end result is a teardrop-shaped piece of glass that’s pretty much unbreakable at its bulbous ‘drop’ end, but which shatters from the slightest pressure at the elongated tail end. Scientists have been obsessed with them since the 1600s. But what happens if you shoot one with a bullet?

There are a video showing the experiment in super slow motion.


 

And now, to something very different – the sometimes less foreseeable consequences of change

Self-Driving Cars Will Make Organ Shortages Even Worse

Much has been said about the ways we expect our oncoming fleet of driverless cars to change the way we live—remaking us all into passengers, rewiring our economy, retooling our views of ownership, and reshaping our cities and roads.

They will also change the way we die. As technology takes the wheel, road deaths due to driver error will begin to diminish. It’s a transformative advancement, but one that comes with consequences in an unexpected place: organ donation.

I don’t think the progress towards car automation, which would result in fewer fatal accidents in traffic, should be stopped because of a concern for fewer organ donations (because of those fewer deaths), but it is something that needs to be taken into consideration in future planning and research. There is work into growing organs in labs, and this should probably be intensified/prioritized.


 

There is a great NY Times article taking a look at fake academic journals and conferences.

A Peek Inside the Strange World of Fake Academia

The caller ID on my office telephone said the number was from Las Vegas, but when I picked up the receiver I heard what sounded like a busy overseas call center in the background. The operator, “John,” asked if I would be interested in attending the 15th World Cardiology and Angiology Conference in Philadelphia next month.

“Do I have to be a doctor?” I said, because I’m not one. I got the call because 20 minutes earlier I had entered my phone number into a website run by a Hyderabad, India, company called OMICS International.

“You can have the student rate,” the man replied. With a 20 percent discount, it would be $599. The conference was in just a few weeks, I pointed out — would that be enough time for the academic paper I would be submitting to be properly reviewed? (Again, I know nothing about cardiology.) It would be approved on an “expedited basis” within 24 hours, he replied, and he asked which credit card I would like to use.

If it seems that I was about to be taken, that’s because I was. OMICS International is a leader in the growing business of academic publication fraud. It has created scores of “journals” that mimic the look and feel of traditional scholarly publications, but without the integrity. This year the Federal Trade Commission formally charged OMICS with “deceiving academics and researchers about the nature of its publications and hiding publication fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.”

It is an interesting area – there are some conferences/journals that are obviously fake (OMICS seems to be one of these), so it is hard to feel sorry for people giving them money. Others are much better at hiding their fakeness, and might even been connected to reputable publishing houses, which makes me feel much more inclined to feel sorry for the people believing them to be real. Especially people without a strong academic background.


I am generally not into sob stories about sportspeople, but this is a truly inspiring one.

The remarkable story of TCU’s Rhodes scholar, Caylin Moore

Growing up in Southern California, Moore’s family struggled financially. Dinner often came from the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s or Carl’s Jr. There were times when Moore’s mother didn’t have enough money to feed all three of her kids. “She would say, ‘Cay, You can only get one item,'” Moore recalled. “So I would just do pushups to take the pain from my stomach to the pain in my arms.”

Sometimes, Moore did pushups until he passed out in a pool of sweat. But he also built his upper body, which helped him excel in football, and that helped him reach college. Rather than give in to the many burdens on his shoulders, nudging him closer to the ground, Moore literally pushed back.

I think that it helps that the article focuses less on the sports aspects, and more on the academic and community aspects.


 

From back in May, an interesting article on how long-lived lies can exist on the internet

How I used lies about a cartoon to prove history is meaningless on the internet

Years ago, maybe around 2003 when I was in middle school, I stumbled across the site TVTome.com. It was a user-edited wiki for TV shows. To be an editor for the big, popular shows you had to prove why you were qualified. After all, creating the official record of what happened on The Big Bang Theory was an important responsibility. But for some forgotten garbage show like Street Sharks, the screening process was nonexistent. Sensing an opportunity for nonsense, I became the Street Sharks editor and filled its page with lies. I made up characters, voice actors, episodes, plot descriptions, everything.

[…..]

For a little while, all these falsehoods just sat there, not bothering anybody. However, sometime later, TVTome got bought and integrated into the much bigger CBS Interactive website TV.com. Thanks to that expanded platform, all of my lies rapidly began infecting the rest of the internet. Most sites since have mostly purged themselves of my misinformation, but for years, IMDB, Amazon, and numerous smaller sites were unintentionally hosting my creative writing. If you’re paranoid and trying to spot a fake, pretty much any episode with a specific 1994 air date and episode description is a fraud. If a shady website claims it has streaming videos of “Feelin’ Lobstery” or “Goin’ Clammando,” and a lot still do since I still found these descriptions, it’s lying to you even more than usual. The only place that’s still entirely accurate is Wikipedia, hilariously enough.

We all know that we can’t trust anything on the internet, but it is interesting to read a case story of how a childhood prank has been spread, and even in some cases, caused false memories.


 

Somewhat related to the Steets Sharks  story, is the story about a movie, Shazaam, which only exists in the memories of people

The movie that doesn’t exist and the Redditors who think it does

Over the years, hundreds of people online have shared memories of a cheesy Nineties movie called “Shazaam”. There is no evidence that such a film was ever made. What does this tell us about the quirks of collective memory?

It is fascinating how no evidence (including the supposed main actor denying the existence of the movie) can convince some of the people believing in the existence of the movie.


Ending on a light note, an excellent profile of the person behind the brilliant MerriamWebster twitter profile

The Wordsmith Behind the Best — and Wittiest — Twitter of 2016

What with the 3 a.m. tweetstorms, Hamilton tirades and his prodigious use of “Sad!,” President-elect Donald J. Trump kinda won Twitter this year. No matter. We’ve got our eye on the runner-up, which on Monday tweeted a little lexicographical commentary: “‘Surreal’ is one of the most common lookups following a tragedy. ‘Surreal’ is our 2016 Word of the Year.”

Burned by a dictionary! If you use Twitter, chances are you’ve seen @MerriamWebster’s tweets. It has schooled the internet on the status of “bigly” as a word and the fact that “unpresidented” is not. During the second presidential debate, it revealed mass ignorance laid bare: “Note that more people are looking up ‘lepo’ (as in, “What’s a lepo?”) than ‘Aleppo.’ #debate.”

The person behind the saucy — and sometimes scorching — pedantry is a 33-year-old grad-school dropout and onetime freelance writer who favors claret-colored lipstick: Lauren Naturale. While a team of lexicographers feeds her material, Naturale is the company’s social media manager and the person behind the dictionary’s Twitter edition.

I am definitely a fan of that twitter account.

New Year resolutions

Since this is the first day of the new year, it seems like an appropriate time to post my New Year resolutions – if nothing else, then because I can look at the post, and see how well I am doing.

Blog more on this blog – I would like to get into a habit of blogging more. I’d like a couple of substantial posts, and maybe a couple of filler posts, per week (on average).

Blog more on my other blog – I have a IT-related blog (Ending error-driven development), which I also want to become more active. If nothing else, I have ideas for 4-5 posts, which I think I ought to write in the next few months.

Read more books – In the pre-internet days, I used to be a book-a-day reader. Since the internet has come along, my online reading has cut into my book reading to a point where I don’t even read a book per week. I want to change this, so I read at least one book per week, and at least one non-fiction book per month.

Speak up for feminism – It is hardly a secret that women that blog and write about feminism are heavily targeted by harassment and treats. For this reason, it is important that pro-feminist men speak out, supporting these women, and help spread feminism. As part of this resolution, I also want to talk more about the (sorry) state of feminism in Denmark.

Speak out against bigotry – The successes of Brexit and Trump has shown that bigotry is alive and well in these days. Those victories have embolden the bigots, which means that those of us who fights bigotry have to stand up and be counting.

Eat more healthy –  I think this one speaks for itself.

Go to more events – I am lucky enough to live in a city where a lot of stuff is going on, and where you can go events of all types just about every day of the week. This year, I will attempt to make better use of this, and go to more events, both work-related and otherwise.

See friends more – Last year I traveled a lot and spent a lot of time moving apartments, so I didn’t get to see my friends and acquaintances as much as I would have liked. This year, I will prioritize this.

Skepticon needs your help

As many of you are aware of, former blogger on this network, Richard Carrier, has sued Skepticon, FreethoughtBlogs, the Orbit, as well as some individual people for defamation.  As this blog network is included in the lawsuit, I haven’t commented on it, but I am obviously of the opinion that Richard Carrier doesn’t have a case. Even so, the lawsuit results in legal costs for the people and groups involved, and Skepticon is asking for donations to help cover their costs. If you have some spare money, consider donating some to them.

A similar effort to raise money will be done by the rest of the defendants, and I will post a link when that happens.