Monday, 31 March 2008

march 30 roundup

Some amoebas build houses.

10 science effects from Backreaction. I have personally experienced the Pauli Effect, and it isn't fun.

Urban futures. "For the first time in human history, more people now live in cities than don't." The forces of growth put great strain on cities around the world, and they manifest in very different ways. For example, "Mexico City has huge water supply and garbage disposal problems, inadequate transit, bad air quality, overcrowding and a culture of crime and corruption. Through it all, however, the city has never succumbed to its various crises, but carries on despite them." The scale and density of cities allows for many efficiencies, but "cities deliver 80 per cent of the services people expect in their daily lives on 25 per cent of tax revenues. As a result, public infrastructure is crumbling at every turn." With >50% of voters now living in cities, expect that to change fast.

Carl Zimmer says it's still possible to distinguish natural from artificial organisms, in part because scientists insist on inserting their names into the genetic code.

Sage Ross thinks the future of WikiPedia rests on news. Despite "a large--and mostly unmet--demand for internet discussion of news," "the top social news sites are only modestly popular, and there is still plenty of room for new players"--including Wikipedia, he thinks. The trouble is that the market for news commentary is saturated by hundreds of mediocre entrants. Ross predicts a "Wii moment" for Wikipedia. I have my doubts.

/. reports "MIT Review is taking a serious look at China's plans to prevent rain over... the Olympics. From the article: 'China's national weather-engineering program is also the world's largest, with approximately 1,500 weather modification professionals directing 30 aircraft and their crews, as well as 37,000 part-time workers — mostly peasant farmers — who are on call to blast away at clouds with 7,113 anti-aircraft guns and 4,991 rocket launchers.' They plan on demonstrating their ability to control the weather to the rest of the world, and expanding on their abilities in the future."

And finally, via Seed's Daily Zeitgeist:

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