Twisted lights in the sky

Twisted light.  Polarized in a new and different way?  Or a way I just never heard of?  Really?  Or maybe it’s just a new application of circular polarization?  Not sure.  But anyway, 2.5 terabits of information a second would be nice to have for communicating in space, between probes and the homeworld.  Between homeworlds in the cosmic civilization-scale jetlag.

Collusion tracks the trackers

There’s a cool experimental Mozilla plugin called Collusion which lets you see what other sites are being told about your web browsing habits as you surf around.  Even with ad-blocking and do-not-track and a host of other privacy enhancing features turned on, the list of notified trackers grows pretty darned quickly!

Open source phone/laptop anti-theft software

The Prey Project is an open source package that lets you turn your laptop or phone into a location aware spying machine, tracking its own motions, and reporting on the usage of the person in possession — screenshots, webcam photos, network captures, etc. — in the event that it is stolen or lost.  Sounds great!  Of course, it also lets you turn somebody else’s computer into a spying machine, so you can watch them, if you can manage to get it installed without their knowing.  Kind of creepy… given that they’ve got a “pro” version that lets you track hundreds of machines simultaneously.

Discounted cashflow analysis of scientific programming

Software Carpentry does a little math describing the value of teaching scientists how to build good software.  Even with very pessimistic assumptions, it’s clearly worthwhile.  With realistic assumptions, it’s a frigging research bonanza.  WTF?  Why don’t advisers and administrators make sure everyone is on board?

The Missing Wikipedians

An interesting analysis of the cultural biases of the Wikipedia.  As participation by the developing world increases, we need to come up with a better way of assessing “notability”.  Especially with English, shared language is not shared culture or context.  We in the west may see Kenyan pop cultural references as unworthy of note… but that’s not how they see it!  Personally I’d rather see it become a truly global repository of knowledge.  The less insular we are, the better.