What does a bill like PIPA/SOPA mean to our shareable world? Clay Shirky delivers a call to defend our freedom to create, discuss, link and share, rather than passively consume.
Clay Shirky argues that the history of the modern world could be rendered as the history of ways of arguing, where changes in media change what sort of arguments are possible--with deep social and political implications.
The focus, or emphasis, of innovation moves up through five stages, propelled by shifts in the needs we seek to fulfill. In the beginning come Technologies of Survival (think fire), then Technologies of Social Organization (think cathedral), then Technologies of Prosperity (think steam engine), then technologies of leisure (think TV), and finally Technologies of the Self (think Facebook, or Prozac).
There is a school of thought that suggests we are in a dark period of technology stagnation. With the exception of information technology (IT), all the low hanging fruit has been picked and we are not making the great tech innovations of years past. See Robert J. Gordon's 2000 paper “Does the ‘New Economy’ Measure Up to the Great Inventions of the Past?”
So why has tech innovation stagnated? Bad education. Lack of corporate investment in research. Short-sighted venture capitalists. Bad regulation. Overaggressive lawyers. Imagination-challenged entrepreneurs. Perceived greater return on investment from lobbying to game rules to benefit over others than investing in R&D. A combination of the above.
Yet the commercial and reputational rewards for innovation grow ever larger and the ability to share ideas grows ever stronger. Any barrier to innovation should be swept away by such forces.
Some say there has been no decline in innovation; there has just been a shift in its focus. We’re as creative as ever, but we’ve funneled our creativity into areas that produce smaller-scale, less far-reaching, less visible breakthroughs. And we’ve done that for entirely rational reasons. We’re getting precisely the kind of innovation that we desire – and that we deserve.
We’ve become inward looking, and what we crave are more powerful tools for modifying our internal state or projecting that state outward. An entrepreneur has a greater prospect of fame and riches if he creates, say, a popular social-networking tool than if he creates a faster, more efficient system for mass transit. The arc of innovation, to put a dark spin on it, is toward decadence.
One of the consequences is that, as we move to the top level of the innovation hierarchy, the inventions have less visible, less transformative effects. We’re no longer changing the shape of the physical world or even of society, as it manifests itself in the physical world. We’re altering internal states, transforming the invisible self. Not surprisingly, when you step back and take a broad view, it looks like stagnation – it looks like nothing is changing very much.
That’s particularly true when you compare what’s happening today with what happened a hundred years ago, when our focus on Technologies of Prosperity was peaking and our focus on Technologies of Leisure was also rapidly increasing, bringing a highly visible transformation of our physical circumstances.
Regardless of the causes, the only way out of our economic mess is to innovate. Policy makers and business leaders need to focus on technological innovation like a laser beam. As a first priority. Starting now.
The God Particle: Higgs Boson Explained & Nobel Prize Winner Leon Lederman Answers Science Questions
The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? is a 1993 science book by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon M. Lederman.
The Higgs boson is often referred to as the "God particle"
Lederman said he gave the Higgs boson the nickname "The God Particle" because the particle is "so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our final understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive," but added that a second reason was because "the publisher wouldn't let us call it the Goddamn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing."
Imagine a cheap, tiny, hovering aerial drone capable of being launched with the flick of a person’s wrist and able to provide manipulable 360-degree surveillance views. Swarms of the new drones can be deployed at a fraction of the cost and with greater capabilities than drones being used today by the military and other agencies.
The new drone which looks like very similar to a maple seed, with a small pod-like body attached a single whirring blade, is called the Samarai. The name is derived from the Latin word “samara,” which means a winged seed, just like the one that inspired its physical design, flight pattern and construction.
In June, Lockheed Martin released a video demo of the drone’s capabilities, and it is clearly impressive, launched by hand and piloted using a tablet computer, which also displays the drone’s live surveillance feed.
Gary Taubes, challenges the current mainstream view that we get fat because we eat too much and don't exercise enough. Taubes asserts that excessive carbohydrate consumption causes obesity. In this conversation he explains how your body reacts to carbohydrates and explains why the mainstream argument of "calories in/calories out" is inadequate for explaining obesity.
Why We Get Fat, by Gary Taubes at Amazon.com.
Twin-turbo 4.7-liter V8
402 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque
7-speed automatic transmission
The 2013 E550 replaces its previous big-displacement 5.5-liter V8 for a new, twin-turbo 4.7-liter unit that makes 402 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque and nets 16/24 mpg.
With a significantly revised exterior design, enhanced tech features, and updated engines planned for the U.S. and abroad, the 2013 E-Class should tide Mercedes customers over until the next-gen model arrives in 2015.
The refresh will reportedly ditch the current model’s quad headlamps in favor of single-piece units, and also completely overhaul the E-Class’ rear end. Automobile says the only exterior elements expected to carry over to the 2013 model are the roof, front doors, and windows. The new look is intended to be more elegant and flowing compared to the current model.
Tech features like night vision assistant will be updated to detect not only pedestrians and cyclists, but also oncoming traffic. The dynamic light assistant, which currently relies on adaptive HID technology, will switch to advanced, fast-moving LED pixels capable of automatically redirecting the beam away from oncoming traffic.
Another feature intended to better protect against head-on collisions is the revised Intelligent Lane Assistant system, which monitors the car’s own lane as well as oncoming traffic and sounds an early collision warning if a crash is imminent.
A car-to-car communication system will be able to recognize emergency vehicles, and warn other cars about hazards such as black ice or hydroplaning conditions. The new system will also allow for partially autonomous driving, requiring only minimal steering, braking, and throttle inputs. The head-up display will be widened, and will feature updated graphics and multi-color imagery.
The Cabriolet is a four-seater that wears its sportiness in a reserved way, like a light sweater thrown over the shoulders of a country-club wife, with a high waistline that helps to maintain an impression of solid respectability. The front windshield, by contrast, is set at a sharp, racy angle, and the driving position is correspondingly low.
The AIRCAP automatic draft stop system, which debuts in the E-Class Cabriolet, uses a wind deflector and a draft-stop mounted behind the rear seats to dramatically decrease windflow in the cabin when the windows are up to ensure an undisturbed driving experience. Mercedes' heated AIRSCARF neck-level heating system also makes an appearance in the E-Class Cabriolet.
With the E550 Cabriolet you can dive into corners and be cradled like a hammock; the steering is responsive without being touchy, and the suspension provides a nice combination of comfort and seat-of-the-pants feel.
Mercedes chose a fabric roof rather than a retractable hardtop for the Cabriolet, and its three-layer construction damps exterior noise effectively. It takes about 20 seconds for the top to retract and disappear into its cubby behind the rear seats.
For several years my daily driver has been the F train, and it’s been good to me. Indeed, it’s where I met my wife, Sarah, a twist of fate that led us, in a roundabout way, to the San Francisco airport, where we stood outside the terminal one Sunday last September, waiting for the car we’d be driving on our honeymoon.
I’d managed to keep the car a secret, so this was the big reveal. It appeared from nowhere, as if a wand had been waved: a steel-gray Mercedes-Benz E550 Cabriolet, practically glowing among the dusty airport vans and rental-car shuttles. We stood by our suitcases, gaping like two rubes at a state fair.
From the moment I took the wheel, I knew I was out of my depth. How do you assess a thing so far removed from your everyday experience? Our last rental was a Kia Rio, for Pete’s sake. Besides, I’d be test-driving this vehicle on the Pacific Coast Highway, in pharmaceutical-grade sunshine, on my honeymoon. These are not real-world driving conditions.
Still, I felt some obligation to remain objective about the car. So I came up with a methodology: every time something wasn’t perfectly awesome, I wrote it down. What follows is a diary of petty grievances, any of which could be filed under “Problems, First World.”
DAY 1 We acquaint ourselves with the E-Class cabriolet. Introduced for the 2011 model year, it replaced the CLK convertible in the Mercedes lineup. It’s a four-seater that wears its sportiness in a reserved way, like a light sweater thrown over the shoulders of a country-club wife, with a high waistline that helps to maintain an impression of solid respectability. The front windshield, by contrast, is set at a sharp, racy angle, and the driving position is correspondingly low — the window sill came up to my shoulder, meaning I wouldn’t be able to prop my elbow on the door frame. Isn’t that half the point of a convertible?
Mercedes chose a fabric roof rather than a retractable hardtop, and its three-layer construction damps exterior noise effectively. The interior is black leather with walnut trim and, equipped with a premium package, promises all manner of Bluetooth-era technical coddling. I spend the drive from the airport playing with the 14-way power-adjustable front seat while Sarah figures out the sound system.
And already, a complaint! It appears the Sirius XM subscription has expired, so there will be no “70s on 7” satellite radio this week; fortunately my iTunes library basically replicates their playlist. We find the iPod/MP3 connection, and the system recognizes our iPhones immediately. Crisis averted.
Other complaints: The fruit in the Mark Hopkins hotel’s complimentary honeymoon gift basket was Cézanne-quality to gaze upon — we spent 10 minutes trying to photograph it — but a little hard on the teeth.
DAY 2 We make our first try at putting the top down at the Golden Gate Bridge scenic lookout, and something’s not right. Though I can hear the whirring of a motorized contraption behind the rear seat, the top won’t budge. After consulting the owner’s manual and popping the trunk to examine the underpinnings of the retractable-roof mechanism, I’m flummoxed. Sarah stands by patiently, pondering the prospect of several decades of this kind of thing.
Finally she figures it out: there’s a latch in the trunk that must be locked into place. She pulls it into position, and suddenly the roof unhinges from the front pillars and smoothly retracts. It takes about 20 seconds for the top to disappear into its cubby behind the rear seats, and several more minutes for Sarah to stop gloating.
The next morning we realize there’s no way to lower the roof with all of our luggage in the trunk. We spend the rest of the trip with my wife’s large purple suitcase in the back seat. I can’t speak to the comfort level for rear passengers — legroom would appear to be compromised if the driver and front-seat passenger choose to stretch their limbs — but the suitcase never complained.
DAY 3 Here are a couple of tips for your next driving tour of San Francisco. First, unless you’re really willing to upset your fellow tourists, twisty Lombard Street, a k a “the crookedest street in the world,” is not the place to test the limits of your car’s handling. Second, it’s tough to roar Bullitt-style over the city’s hills while also trying to follow Google Maps.
And I have a genuine criticism. When the 7-speed automatic transmission is set to its default Economy mode, the E550 takes a moment to acknowledge a firm foot on the gas. I noticed this first on the drive from the airport to the hotel, and the last two days confirmed it. Each time I try to lead-foot, the 382-horsepower engine seems to pause to ask “Are you sure?” After a half-second it acquiesces with a deep, guttural growl from the 5.5 liter V-8, and a corresponding burst of speed.
In Sport mode that burst is instantaneous, and the difference is that much more obvious now that we’re officially on Highway 1, heading south toward Monterey. The solution is to keep it in Sport mode. You’re on your honeymoon, fool.
It’s only fair to note that I was driving the 2011 E550; the 2012 model features, along with a new transmission, a twin-turbocharged 4.6-liter V-8 that makes 402 horsepower. Still, my lame-duck 2011 Cabriolet is plenty quick, especially when it comes to passing power. After rocketing past four cars on a straight stretch of highway somewhere south of Half Moon Bay, I can confidently estimate that the E550 goes from 45 to 80 in about 3 seconds.
Complaints: We get all the way to Pacifica before realizing there’s no In-N-Out Burger there, and make a 10-minute detour back to Daly City for lunch.
DAY 4 The 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach is as visually stunning as promised. What the photos don’t tell you is that a good portion of it smells like a Mrs. Paul’s processing plant. It’s the one failing of the Cabriolet’s AirCap system, a spoiler that rises above the windshield at the push of a button, with a corresponding air dam behind the rear seats. AirCap does an excellent job of reducing wind turbulence in the cabin, but alas it’s not a force field. Next time we’ll bring air freshener.
This leg of the trip poses a serious problem: the deep, winding curves north of Big Sur are the ideal performance challenge for the E550, but those same curves offer breathtaking vistas of the jagged cliffs and rocky shore of the Pacific. The thin metal guardrails separating us from the edge of those cliffs, bent crudely back into shape in many places, are a constant reminder that you cannot enjoy both the road and the view at the same time.
I’d say the E550 is dialed in just right for someone like me, a novice who wants to play helldriver now and then but be forgiven for some occasional overexuberance. You can dive into corners and be cradled like a hammock; the wheels hang tight, not sliding a bit as you accelerate perhaps a little too quickly from the apex of a turn. The steering is responsive without being touchy, and the suspension provides a nice combination of comfort and seat-of-the-pants feel.
Complaints: The Caveman Room at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo is kitschy, roadside-America fun until you try to sleep there, at which point the faux-Stone Age walls become claustrophobic and a little creepy.
DAY 5 The problem with my Nit-Picker’s Guide to the E-Class is that it can’t account for a day like today, when everything is just about perfect. So let’s substitute a few quibbles about the mostly excellent 2012 model, which I drove more recently in New York.
The smaller, more powerful engine of the 2012 sedan seemed overeager in Sport mode, as if the direct-injection V-8 were in a hurry to prove its extra 20 horses were worth the trouble. It’s hard to say whether this was a characteristic of the new powertrain or of the more leisurely mind-set evoked by the longer, wider sedan. Whatever the cause, with the 2012 sedan I actually preferred driving in Economy mode. The car still lagged a bit in the lower gears, but as it approached highway speeds the E-Class seemed to find its ideal rhythm.
The same could be said of the 2011 Cabriolet, actually. Maybe it’s because we’ve reached a flatter, straighter portion of Highway 1, negating the temptation for me to play with the paddle shifters in manual-transmission mode, but the E550 seems best suited for this kind of casual daylong cruise.
We approach Los Angeles in late afternoon with Katy Perry blasting from the speakers — a husband quickly learns to make compromises — and somehow this becomes the thing I’ll remember most, driving into Malibu with the top down and the wind blowing and my wife singing along to “Teenage Dream.” I’m iffy on the song at first, but Sarah’s winning me over with an impromptu dance routine, acting out the lyrics and throwing her arms up into the wind, and at that moment I am head-over-heels in love, not just with the girl, but with the car, the music, the ocean, the sunshine, California, everything.
Complaints: It is embarrassing to have a half dozen valets at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel tripping over themselves to help us unload the E-Class. How much do you tip a guy for carrying a pair of sandals?
DAY 6 It’s the last full day of our trip, and I’m already nostalgic. Despite the prospect of a long drive back to San Francisco, we spend the early afternoon curling through Topanga Canyon and along Mulholland Drive, squeezing a last few hours of playtime out of the E-Class. After refueling in Studio City, we get to experience an authentic L.A. traffic jam just before sunset.
I haven’t mentioned mileage because, to be honest, I didn’t keep track of it. For the record, the E.P.A. rates the latest E550 Cabriolet at a mediocre 16 miles per gallon in the city, 25 for the highway, which is actually an improvement over the 2011 model, whose larger engine’s thirst was rated at 15/22. But I’m guessing that, with a list price approaching $75,000 with options, fuel economy isn’t a top concern of the E550 customer.
Complaints: Kitchen worker at Jack in the Box on Interstate 5 south of Bakersfield is seen leaving the bathroom without washing his hands.
DAY 7 After saying a wistful goodbye to the E550 at the airport valet stand, we fly back to New York to resume our regular, pedestrian lives. The harsh reality doesn’t truly set in until we’ve landed at La Guardia, where in the taxi line a dispirited Crown Vic waits, like a yellow pumpkin, to carry us home.
It’s amazing how fast one can become a snob about these things.
Gladwell’s new book, “David and Goliath,” will come out next year.
In 2009, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a piece for the New Yorker about a team of skinny, ill-trained girl basketball players who nonetheless advanced to the California state championship, partly by upending notions of how defense should be played. Underdogs, Gladwell wrote, win far more often than you might think; and they do so particularly when they replace ability with effort and figure out new ways to play the game.
Read at: http://nyr.kr/pcaPN
Skull & Bones