Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from December 2009

John Brockman, founder of the feast

December 28th, 2009 · Comments Off on John Brockman, founder of the feast

John Brockman, founder of the feast

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

John Brockman and Katinka Matson were in Cambridge this weekend, throwing (as usual) an enjoyable party… which none of my iPhone pictures came out, but I like this one of John, seen here with just a bit of Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, the author of the (soon to be published) Bursts.

There was quite a bit of talk about the Edge question for 2010 (which remains secret until it gets published there January 1.) I was also very intrigued by the ongoing DNA mysteries that Ting Wu explores in her Harvard Med School lab — and by the diverse places that Katinka Matson finds the flowers for her humongous photographs. I also learned that Frank Wilczek considers evolution a very roundabout way to deliver paltry amounts of information. I am looking forward to reading Connected by Nicolas Christakis and James Fowler, especially the chapter that begins with epidemic laughter. And if I had been sitting closer to Marvin Minsky or Benoit Mandelbrot, I might have learned something novel from them as well.

And then there was the Harvest’s sticky toffee pudding! Thanks once again, John Brockman and Katinka Matson.

Tags: Boston · Cambridge · Frank Wilczek · Science · Wide wonderful world · writing

Why does my desk not already look like this?

December 6th, 2009 · Comments Off on Why does my desk not already look like this?

Mmm computer displays to dream on 3

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

I have seen the future and it is CERN.

The only reason our desks don’t all look like this right now is that you, yes you, haven’t yet realized how much you want this, and therefore computer and software manufacturers have not yet started to make it easy to get.

Brains are not computers and we have “evolved” our computers to supplement the places where we really need extra help — memory storage and processing, collaboration, number crunching, and visualizing stuff.

The trouble is that, because computer monitor square-footage has been very expensive in the past, we are used to short-changing ourselves on visualization. Instead of getting the full shiny benefit of all the ways our computer CAN help us think, plan, and imagine, we are resigned to the time-consuming hackage of layered or tiled windows cluttering up our lone monitor.

Old computers and old monitors are very cheap; it would be easy to maker-fy several onto the wall behind your desk for simultaneous and useful display.

But wouldn’t this create a problem, I hear you asking, with “continuous partial attention“?

Au contraire! — as the seasick Frenchman said, when asked if he wanted to eat. By keeping our very own plans and obsessions and interests on view, we would compete more successfully for our own brainspace against the binging and buzzing of multi-interruption.

What would you keep on your own five new computer screens? I am also mentally giving you a free sixth one, where you actually work on the stuff you do now.

Tags: Editorial · Science · Wide wonderful world

Real-time results from CERN’s ATLAS detector

December 1st, 2009 · 4 Comments

Real-time results from CERN’s ATLAS detector

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Frank and I are in Bern on our way to CERN, as the LHC beams are finally online and being brought up to speed. The LHC beam got to Bern’s labs before we did.

But not much before we did — ATLAS recorded its first particle “splashes” on Nov. 20, not much more than a week ago.

The ATLAS group at Bern University focuses on data-acquisition and data-analysis. One of the many amazing things they showed us today is their giant realtime display of LHC information.

The lefthand side of the monitor (most of it not visible in this photo) shows many aspects of the LHC beam status. One young experimenter is here pointing to information about the most recent “event” recorded by ATLAS, from three different viewpoints. This was a cosmic ray event, which was superceded by a second cosmic ray event during the few minutes we stood looking at the monitor. (The beam status was “off” so collision events were not on view.)

The black rectangle with many particle tracks is a lovely revolving three-dimensional image of very the first beam “event” recorded by ATLAS. Wow.

I am definitely going to follow CERN on Twitter for more.

Tags: Frank Wilczek · Science · Travel · Wide wonderful world