Saturday, June 26, 2004

Looking on the bright side...

[See Previous]

Scientist Sees Space Elevator in 15 Years

From the article:This sounds optimistic -- both the 15 year part and the $10 billion part. But let's say that he is right on both counts. If you can build one elevator, then you can build many of them. Let's assume that one of the elevators is used strictly for space tourism, with 30 people per day being carried into space. That's roughly 10,000 people per year. Over the course of 10 years, that's 100,000 people. $10 billion divided across 100,000 people is $100,000 per person -- quite a bit less than the $20 million per person being charged today. It would certainly change a lot of things...

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Consumer fraud

Spam arrives every day and it is full of bogus claims. Most people understand that. But what about all the bogus claims being released through the major media?

For example, if you are a parent you can not help seeing ads for mosquito-repelling devices. Now we learn that one of the most heavily advertised ones is useless: FTC: No love for baby bug device

Health experts are now gearing up to fight all the false claims being made about low-carb foods and diets: Experts slam low-carb trend as rip-off

I noted earlier that a popular diet pill called Cortislim is useless, yet it is being promoted by a multi-million dollar ad campaign.

Polical ads are famous for their lies and distortions.

We are getting to the point where we need a watchdog agency that screens all ads before they are released to the public.

So what if there is an independent agency, similar to the Underwriters Laboratory. You've seen the "UL Label" on just about every electrical product you buy. The label certifies that the UL has tested the device, and it is not likely to cause an electrical fire. What if there was something like the UL label on ads -- a little logo in the bottom right corner -- saying that an independent agency has looked-at/listened-to the ad and certified it to be accurate? You would know that ads without the logo are bogus.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Cutting Harvard Tuition by $5,000

This article indicates that Harvard University could cut its tuition by $5,000 per year simply by cutting the executive salaries in one department to a reasonable level. It is fascinating to see how big an effect these huge executive salaries are having on the economy. Read more...

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Looking on the bright side...

[See Previous]

The Salt Lake Tribune -- Teen smoking rate dives to generational low

From the article:

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Additives make kids restless

If you have kids, this blurb from The Week is pretty interesting/scary:

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Flat panel displays

A nice, simple article describing pros and cons between plasma and LCD screens:

Flat-Panel TVs: Time to Go Skinny?

For example:

Hard to believe but true...

[See previous]

Scientists find rodent monogamy gene

From the article:What we need next is a gene that disables nagging. Then everyone would be happy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Something else to worry about...

[See Previous]

First 'worm' aimed at mobile phones detected

From the article:

Monday, June 14, 2004

Answers to two questions

Previous posts prompted two common questions from readers. This post on Reagan's funeral caused several people to ask, "Didn't pharoahs in Egypt have more expensive funerals than Reagan?" and this post caused several people to ask, "Are you sure that every phone call is not already being recorded?"Perhaps we should have built Ronald Reagan a gigantic concrete pyramid outside of Los Angeles or something...

Friday, June 11, 2004

Reagan's Funeral -- the most expensive funeral ever?

Waves of Mourners Honor Reagan in D.C.

It's probably impolite to ask this, but it is an interesting question nonetheless: What will be the total cost of Reagan's funeral?

First, there's the cost of flying the coffin around. According to this article, Air Force One costs $56,800-per-hour to operate. Figure it's operating 20 hours to fly the coffin around and that's over a million bucks there.

Then there is the federal holiday that President Bush declared. According to this article:To make the math easy, let's assume that it's two million people affected by this decree, and they make an average of $200 per day. Both of those numbers are low (the U.S. post office alone has over 800,000 employees), but that totals $400 million.

Then, because today was declared a national day of mourning, Wall street followed Washington's lead, so the markets are closed today. Heaven help you if you were planning a stock trading strategy around trading on June 11. Let's say this and its ripple effects are worth another $400 million.

Then there's the cost of the funeral itself...

And all of the extra security around the funeral and the viewings...

Plus the cost of all of the media coverage...

It's a lot of money. It will probably approach a billion dollars when it is all said and done.

Is it a world record?

Hard to believe but true...

[See previous]

Just the title is scary: Zombie PCs spew out 80% of spam

From the article:Surely, at the ISP level, it must be possible to detect these computers and shut them down. It is hard to believe that this is going on in the year 2004...

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Free Cable TV

I heard an ad on the radio today (and there is growing noise on the web) about the idea of cable TV channel choice. If you go to this page:

CWA - Cable Choice is Channel Choice

you can play the ads that are currently running and read more about the idea. See also this article from

The goal of this ad campaign is to pressure cable companies into giving consumers (us) the right to pick -- and pay for -- only the TV channels we want. So, instead of paying $40 per month and getting a "package" of 75 channels, we could pick, say, 10 specific channels and pay only for them.

What is interesting to me is this notion of "paying" anything for commercial TV channels. For example, if I want to receive the Discovery channel, why should I have to pay anything at all? The Discovery channel already has ads! What, we now have to put up with ads and pay cash -- whose idea is that??? I can understand paying for HBO because it is ad-free, but making people pay for the Discovery channel is nuts.

The way cable TV should work is that you pay $5 a month, or whatever, to cover the cost of bringing the cable feed into the house. Then you pay whatever the monthly fee is for HBO and any other ad-free channels you want. And then all the other channels (the ones like Discovery channel that are filled with 20 minutes of commercials for every hour of show) come in for free, because these channels make their money off of ads.

Then, in the ideal future 10 or 20 years down the line, we do away with the cable company altogether and replace it with a free wireless solution. For example, this article in the NY Times this week is interesting:

Where Entrepreneurs Go and the Internet Is Free

From the article:Think about the economics of a hot spot. If you run a restaurant, and assuming that you don't already have Internet access, you go get a broadband cable line or broadband DSL line brought in. That might cost $100 per month, assuming you get a "business line". The wireless hub is essentially free ($50 to $100 one-time cost), and it takes five minutes to set it up. Now assume that 100 people a day come in and use your hot spot. It is only costing 3 cents per person to provide this service. The restaurant probably pays more than that to supply customers with napkins, and I've never seen a restaurant charge for napkins. So why charge for wireless Internet access? If we could get everyone to do this, and if we could get a slightly better protocol than 802.11 (bigger footprint, more speed, ability to overlap hotspots better and move between them), then wireless access would be ubiquitous and free for everyone.

This is why wireless communication will eventually be free. This article is already talking about 1 Gb/second cards for laptops. This post talks about all of the emerging wireless broadband solutions appearing today. Instead of paying a cable company for a channel like Discovery channel, in 10 years you will simply go to the Discovery Channel web site, pull the channel up in a browser for free, and send the data off to your 60-inch OLED screen so you can watch it. [One nice side effect -- there will be millions of TV channels in this world -- no more cable TV tyrany restricting the number of channels.] If politics and corporate power don't get in the way, then all the major phone companies, all the cable TV companies and all the cell phone companies will die a natural death in this free wireless world.

[Postscript - See also this article in today's NYT: "The new TiVo technology, which will become a standard feature in its video recorders, will allow users to download movies and music from the Internet to the hard drive on their video recorder."]

Looking on the bright side...

[See previous]

There has to be some kind of nugget of truth in this story:

'Dying' couple blow £40k

Both spouses were diagnosed with "terminal" diseases. So, they decided to make a list of 50 things they really wanted to do before they died. According to the article: "Over 18 months they renewed their wedding vows on the QE2, partied in Rio, had a safari in South Africa and visited the Falklands, Senegal and Uruguay."

From the article:Perhaps the saying, "Live life as though you will die tommorrow" has some validity. Of course, if we all received a $25,000 per year stipend, it would be a lot easier fo us all to do this...

Something else to worry about...

[See previous]

Nowhere to hide: who really reads your e-mail?

From the article: This is the same technique used by spammers to detect if you open an email. Once they know you opened it, then they know that they have found a "real" email address and the floodgates open. Now everyone can take advantage of spamming technology.

What if you don't want people doing this to you? There is one way around it, maybe. Your email client would need to have a setting that says, "don't show me GIFs/JPEGs embedded in email messages". If every email program had that ability, then the problem would go away.

Something else to worry about...

[See Previous]

Think before you text

From the article:Your text messages are stored forever on a server somewhere, so watch what you say.

It makes you wonder how long it will be before every phone call made in this country is recorded and saved on a server somewhere for eternity.

Iraqis pay a nickle a gallon for gasoline

There is something truly uncomfortable about this article:

Iraqis Paying 5 Cents a Gallon for Gas

From the article:American taxpayers pay $2 billion per year for this subsidy.

There are 100 million households, approximately, in the U.S. $2 billion per year means that your household, personally, is paying $20 per year so that Iraqis can get this benefit.

It will be interesting to see how they phase out this benefit. How, exactly, do you say to people suddenly, "OK, time to pay the real price -- $2 per gallon"?

Which brings up an interesting question -- What is the "real" price of gasoline? If you don't have speculators adding $10 a barrel to the price and oil companies gouging consumers as much as they can... That is, if all you pay is the real cost of pumping it out of the ground and refining it and trucking it to the gas station... Maybe the "real" price is only $1 a gallon.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Interviewing techniques, unusual

This article talks about all sorts of techniques that interviewers use to get more information, and it is interesting because it can apply to lots of areas besides job interviews:

Interview twists, turns

For example, your date could try many of these to learn more about you...

Hard to believe but true...

[See previous]

Web surfers look for porn, not searches

From the article:See also this post on porn.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Super high-res camera

Every year, digital cameras get better resolution. At the $1,000 level, you can currently get 8 megapixels (e.g. the Sony F828). Eight megapixels seems like overkill... until you read this article:

New high-resolution camera nears virtual reality

From the article:The article does not actually say what the resolution of the camera is, but it gives some hints. Using those hints, I would guess that this camera has something approaching one gigapixel resolution.

Unfortunately the current technology needed to reach gigapixel levels is insane. It requires huge pieces of film, vacuum pumps and big aluminum supports to keep everything aligned.

But if you think about Moore's law... We should be able to buy 16 megapixel cameras for $1,000 in two or three years. Then 32 megapixel cameras two or three years after that. Then 64 megapixel, 128 megapixel, 256 megapixel, 512 megapixel and finally 1 gigapixel cameras. According to that timeline, we will all have gigapixel cameras by 2025 or so. Each image will consume 2.6 gigabytes on the hard disk (assuming we haven't replaced hard disks with some something better by then). But 2.6 gigabyte images will be OK because a hard disk in 2025 will hold a petabyte (1,000 terabytes).

The same kind of thing is happening on the video side. Researchers have leapfrogged HDTV to create UHDV, with 16x better resolution than HDTV. See this article for details.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Wireless broadband

Most of us currently connect to the Internet in one of three ways:If you live in a fairly dense neighborhood and lots of people around you have wireless hubs in their homes, there is also a free option. You can use an 802.11 (WiFi) card and get Internet access from an unsuspecting neighbor.

Dialup, cable and DSL all require a wire. There is now a push to bring wireless Internet broadband connectivity directly to consumers. Here are three options that are emerging:For remote areas, there are also satellite broadband connections like Direcway.

It should be interesting to see how this shakes out over the next year or two.

ARCHIVES © Copyright 2003-2005 by Marshall Brain


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