Saturday, March 10, 2007
Listology: IMDB's Number System - the first 1000 people in the Internet Movie Database
Other IMdB-related lists
Winds of change not always welcome on Sark
This 3-mile-long stretch of granite crags, flowered meadows, neat cottages and well-behaved Guernsey cows 80 miles off Britain in the English Channel is the last feudal outpost in Europe.
Sark has remained pretty much the same for the past 442 years, since Queen Elizabeth I declared it a noble fiefdom. Transport is by bicycle, horse-and-carriage or Wellington boots. When absolutely necessary, one may resort to one of the island's few tractors.
Land ownership is divided among 40 ancestral landowner "tenants." The island administrator, judge, constable and clerk are appointed by the current seigneur, a 79-year-old former aeronautical engineer whose family has governed Sark since 1852.
But that was all put in place before it was decreed that, in a modern Europe whose members are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights, it's just not acceptable to have feudal lords, with seats in the island's parliament bequeathed across generations to eldest sons and refusing to adopt divorce laws because you don't like them.
As a dependency of the sovereign of England, Sark adopts its own tax residency, land ownership and environmental standards but looks to Britain for its defense and international diplomacy, and to the nearby Channel Island of Guernsey for criminal laws.
Sark, like the rest of the islands that squat in the English Channel, is technically not part of Britain, or anywhere else. As a dependency of the sovereign of England off and on since the days of William the Conqueror, Sark adopts its own tax residency, land ownership and environmental standards.
Until now, no one has been particularly inclined to shed the feudal governing system that placed political power in the hands of the seigneur and a parliament made up of his 40 vassals and, more recently, 12 elected deputies.
But as the 40 land allotments have begun to be bought up by outsiders looking for a slice of the island's tranquility and rural grace, some newcomers have begun to demand change, much as has happened on Guernsey and the nearby island of Jersey. For some, the idea of having to apply to the seigneur for permission to sell land -- and pay him a thirteenth of the sales price -- is too charmingly medieval for comfort.
British authorities, responsible for administering European human-rights standards, have given Sark a choice: Either create an elected parliament of a form chosen by the majority of the island's 600 or so residents, or give up some sovereignty.
"We must remember, it's worked wonderfully for 450 years. Unfortunately, it's a lot of the outsiders who come to the island because they love it, and lo and behold they want to change things," said Elizabeth Perree, whose family, descendants of some of the island's original tenants, operates an inn and small farm.
"It'll be a tragedy if it starts to get built up and become like anywhere else in the world," Perree said.
Founder of Go Travel Direct shocked by sneak attacks
Ottawa's Hugh Boyle thought he was ready for a fight when his Go Travel Direct entered the market in 2000. But documents seized by the Competition Bureau indicate he may have underestimated his opponents.
What really surprised Hugh Boyle was the extent to which his competitors seemed willing to join forces to shut him down.
The Number That's Devouring Science
He eventually dreamed up something he called an "impact factor," essentially a grading system for journals, that could help him pick out the most important publications from the ranks of lesser titles. To identify which journals mattered most to scientists, he proposed tallying up the number of citations an average article in each journal received.
Indeed, impact factors have assumed so much power, especially in the past five years, that they are starting to control the scientific enterprise. In Europe, Asia, and, increasingly, the United States, Mr. Garfield's tool can play a crucial role in hiring, tenure decisions, and the awarding of grants.
Impact-factor fever is spreading, threatening to skew the course of scientific research, say critics. Investigators are now more likely to chase after fashionable topics — the kind that get into high-impact journals — than to follow important avenues that may not be the flavor of the year.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Digital Photography Tutorials
"This section includes tutorials on how to acquire, interpret and process digital photographs."
Thursday, March 08, 2007
SPECTRa - Submission, Preservation and Exposure of Chemistry Teaching and Research Data in Digital Repositories
SPECTRa is an eighteen month project which will develop a set of customized software tools to enable chemists to routinely deposit experimental data, much of which is currently lost, in Open Access digital repositories.
Requirements in a number of different user disciplines (X-ray crystallography, computational chemistry and synthetic organic chemistry) will be determined by interview and survey. A customized version of the DSpace digital repository will be developed. Additional tools and context-specific metadata will facilitate the subsequent re-use of the deposited information.
Novel search engine matches molecules in a flash
The new technique [...] analyses the position of the different atoms within a molecule to understand its shape. These relative positions can be mapped and stored a molecular database.
The new software first identifies a molecule's centroid – the central point, based on the positions of its atoms. It then determines the atom closest to the centroid, the one farthest away, and the one that is farthest from this second atom. These atoms – essentially the centre and the extremes – are used as reference points for measuring distances to other atoms within the molecule.
The measurements are characterised as statistical moments: the average atomic distance, the variance of atomic distances and the asymmetry, or "skewness", of the distribution of distances.
These figures provide an accurate mathematical picture of a molecule's shape, allowing them to be compared with those of others very quickly, with the additional advantage of being independent of how the molecule is oriented in the database.
In experiments the technique, dubbed Ultrafast Shape Recognition (USR), was found to be more than 1500 times faster than the best existing method for molecule matching. The researchers say the new technique could prove especially useful because molecular databases now contain many billions of molecules.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Humanism and Health Care
The obsession with health care, however, goes deeper, and expresses an outlook best described in theological terms. In his bracing little book on Secularization, Edward Norman, former chancellor of York Minster, describes the conflict between Christianity and what he calls Secular Humanism by contrasting their attitudes toward suffering. Christianity "was founded in an act of expiatory pain, has regarded human suffering as not only inseparable from the nature of life on earth, as a matter of observable fact, but also as a necessary condition in spiritual formation." Christians seek, of course, to alleviate suffering, but God, not human suffering, is the center of the moral universe.
Secular Humanism, by contrast, does not believe in sin and cannot see how any good could emerge from human suffering. Humanity is perfectible, and if we will only work together we will be able to remove "anything that can be represented as an affront or an impediment to the painless existence of men and women." Morality is reduced to "the palliation of whatever humans themselves regard as the cause of their suffering or deprivation." Having given up the worship of God, Secular Humanists "worship the human body itself." Is it any wonder then that politicians, as well as the media, "routinely accord priority to items of health-care policy, critiques of the state of hospital waiting lists, apparent scandals relating to medical practices"?
Lorenz and Modular Flows: A Visual Introduction - A tangled tale linking lattices, knots, templates, and strange attractors . . .
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Swivel - "Tasty Data Goodies"
POV-Ray: Newsgroups: povray.binaries.images: A Ghost
POV-Ray: Newsgroups: povray.binaries.scene-files: A Ghost (715kb - 3 files)
Free Woodworking Plans on the Internet
Absolutely Free Plans
Vicki's Wood 'n Things
Anti-Lamenessing Engine (ALE) - freeware; pretty good results for anti-aliasing
"ALE is an image-processing program used for tasks such as image mosaicking, super-resolution, deblurring, noise reduction, anti-aliasing, and scene reconstruction. Its principle of operation is synthetic capture, combining multiple inputs representing the same scene."
Monday, March 05, 2007
Innovative Technologies From Science Fiction For Space Applications
The Innovative Technologies from Science Fiction (ITSF) study conducted for the European Space Agency reviewed past and present science-fiction literature, artwork and films in order to identify and assess innovative technologies and concepts described therein which could possibly be developed further for space applications, and to gather imaginative ideas that might have potential for long-term development by the European space sector.