Archive for January, 2003
“It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one’s safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract.” - Alan Sheped
I have concerns about using nuclear technology to travel to other planets, mostly because I was in high school when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. They announced it over the intercom and there was a lot of discussion about it later. As a result, I don’t have the same sense of commonalty when it comes to space travel that today’s generation might have. I wonder what sort of effects something like the Challenger explosion would have if it was carrying enough nuclear payload to move between planets. Imagine the environmental effects alone as large amounts of radioactive materials are dumped into the ocean because of an explosion.
The flip side is that I think it is the next logical step. Chemical rockets are just too ineffective to realistically travel great distances. Eventually we will have to take a chance and I think with the current administration we might have the best chance of landing on Mars in my lifetime.
Now I just want them to create a Space Elevator.
In the middle ages, scholars searched for a mystical compound called the philosophers stone. This compound was said to transmute lead into gold, making the owner rich beyond their wildest dream (ignoring the effect of a sudden flood of gold onto the marketplace, driving down the price). It was never found, albeit Newton apparently spent time looking for it. Well, looks like scientists are trying the same thing, but instead using genes to change liver cells into pancreatic cells. This means that millions of type 1 diabetics would have a potential cure for their disease that wouldn’t be rejected because it’s made from their own cells. Technology Good!
The ACLU recently published a paper, Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains: The Growth of an American Surveillance Society , that talks about the loss of privacy in the USA and what we can do about it. I’m not sure what I think of the paper or it’s conclusions, but I wanted to talk about some of it’s points.
They talk about a tourist looking at some merchandise in a sex shop window, getting scanned by the store, and then later mailed a solicitation mentioning her “visit” and how that would embarrass her in front of her family. Why would her family care? They know her and they know the type of person she is. Further, is she ashamed of the fact that she looked at the items or that she was “caught”. The flip side is that the store shouldn’t be allowed to automatically send information without the user requesting it. That I agree with and think it should be a law.
The paper details an African-American being questioned about a crime because they were in a supposedly all-white neighbor hood and therefor didn’t belong. My counter would be that the camera would probably reveal that it wasn’t as white of a neighborhood as people think and that having an African-American there wasn’t actually out of place. Further, I would want to know how many other people were questioned.
The paper points out that there is no evidence that crime is reduced by having surveillance, but it fails to mention if it is easier to solve a crime given the available cameras. I would be interested to know.
The paper goes into detail about the databases that the government maintains (financial, educational, etc.) and the increase availability of this information to different agencies. I don’t see a problem with this. People complain constantly about how September 11th happened because data wasn’t shared between the CIA and the FBI. This may be true, but I think that having this information at least allows for the big picture to be seen and understood better. The one point I do agree to is that the government should be required to have probable cause before reviewing information on an individual.
One of the things that I think that make the Constitution a great document is the First Amendment. Because of this amendment, the government is constantly being watch-dogged by the people. Without this, a Orwellian society could easily be put into place because information would be restricted. Instead, the government’s activities can be monitored and questioned. So when people start to complain about the sudden loss of privacy in the world, I’m not so sure there is a need to worry.
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”
These words start the 14th amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Because of this clause, I am declared a citizen of the United States of America and guaranteed the rights of that citizenship (of course I believe these rights should be granted to everyone, regardless of citizenship). All people born in United States territories are granted these rights. So, I think it is sad when people get in an uproar because women come to this country to give birth in hopes that their child will have the privileges and benefit of living in this country. Would mothers anywhere do any less? We guarantee ourselves certain rights and it is the height of hubris to deny those rights to anyone else.
Do you suppose that judges get handed cases like this one because they are being punished? Why is there a difference between a “toy” and a “doll”? Isn’t a doll just a subset of toy? Curiouser and curiouser.
Okay, boys and girls, looks like the world has gotten a little more dangerous. Using the techniques of Dr. Mesmer, this virus can destroy your system by you simply reading the message. I recommend that you stop reading e-mail altogether! Hell, get some sunshine .
On any given day, I use a dozen different applications with capabilities that are not bundled with Windows XP or are just plain un-usable. I use Ultraedit to view and edit text files; I use Mozilla Phoenix for viewing websites I visit daily (gotta love the ability to open multiple pages with two clicks and then do some other stuff while they load); I use cygwin for some powerful command prompting. I also use Visual Studio, Internet Explorer, and Outlook. Why am I saying this? Well, I’m tired of hearing people complain when the Big Guys integrate technologies into an OS. It’s not the Big Guys’ fault that the user doesn’t want to look elsewhere for an application. So stop complaining when the Big Guy adds features, revel in it. And then go create something truly unique.