seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy

Science & Technology

Thoughts on science, technology, energy, and policy intersecting these spheres.

New Report

I have been writing again. Last week I released a 12 page report that examines the trade-offs of broadband delivery systems. So, if you want to understand why wireless is not the future but fiber optic networks are, you should check it out. If you want to know why DSL and cable networks are totally limited and scale poorly, that report is for you.

I have received many complimentary reviews for its readability among non-technical folks.

County and State Database

I am working on a pretty cool coding project that is secret for now but related to my telecom work. As part of it, I was trying to find a list of all the counties in the U.S. to incorporate into a database. I was unable to find anything exactly the way I wanted it, but I did get a list of all counties by state.

I massaged it into this MySQL database of counties and states. The database has two tables - one of states and D.C. - and the other of counties and an id for what state they are in. The file is a gzipped sql dump.

I hope other people are able to use it. I cannot verify the accuracy of the data but I spot-checked some of it and found no errors.

Creationism Now

Diane Rehm's show recently addressed creationism and evolution in schools. The show comes after the National Academies put out a report on teaching evolution in schools.

This 51 minute radio segment really nails the whole discussion around whether we teach science in science or something else in science. As with so many DR shows, it is well worth listening to.

In particular, pay close attention to what John Calvert, an "intelligent design" (creationism's new face) proponent says. He continually attacks science for taking a "materialist" position. What he means by this is that science is only interested in developing theories for how the natural world works without any cause from supernatural forces. He is of course right ... basically he is saying is that science should not be taught in science because it is too scientific. Instead, he wants not-science taught in science because he does not like the idea of science.

What it comes down to is that some religious folks are uncomfortable with science because it challenges their beliefs. Though many religious people are able to reconcile science and religion - by recognizing that science asks how and religion asks why, for instance - some are not and try to disrupt science. Remember the church persecution of Galileo ...

Just as those who continue to deny global climate change are fools who think they can change reality by not believing it, too many religious people miss the point that they can continue believing in a supernatural force even while recognizing the natural world has rules that we can decipher.

And let's be clear about who is interfering with schools. Creationists fight to keep evolution out of schools while trying to get their creation story in schools. Those of us who value science fight to keep science in schools and most of us don't really mind
having religion taught in schools - but NOT in science! And when it comes down to it, let's be clear about Christian creationists - they certainly don't want American Indian creation stories or Flying Spaghetti Monster creation stories taught. They only want their creation story taught and that is certainly not the role for a publicly run school.

Thankfully, I don't think we will have to deal with this crap in Minnesota.

Windows Patches

Those of us who occasionally have to install Windows XP on a computer after an unexpected crash, or just to freshen the computer up and shake any cruft or spyware, tend to dread the process of patching the operating system.

Download patches ... reboot.

Download more patches ... reboot.

and so - the price you pay for using the most popular line of operating systems on the planet. Annoyance. However, there is a better way. I heard about this tool on Security Now - a great podcase from the TWIT network.

Some German folks came up with a program that will download all the necessary patches to Win2K or XP and create an ISO that allows you easily burn them to a disc and apply them to the new operating system. So you can apply all these patches easily without jumping on the net with an insecure machine. Pretty frickin sweet.

Pollan on Science Friday

I finally got around to listening to Michael Pollan on last week's Science Friday. I always find Science Friday interesting, but this 40 minute segment is really intriguing.

Chances are that your holiday meals weren't completely natural. But where is the dividing line between 'real' food and some sort of artificial pseudo-food-substitute? In this segment, Ira talks with author Michael Pollan about his latest book, "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto." He suggests that people can improve their eating tremendously through relatively simple rules, including 'Don't eat anything that your great-grandmother would not recognize as food.'

You can download the audio and put it on your personal music player or listen to it on your computer or burn it to a CD. But you have to listen to it if you want to learn why processed foods, ostensibly with the same vitamins as natural foods, do not offer the same nutrition. Additionally, learn why some eggs are better for you based on how the chicken is fed and treated.

Death of Intelligent Design

This is a very long video - I only watched a few clips of it, but was quite impressed. I'm so sick and tired of people who are totally ignorant of science making crazy claims about that the Theory of Evolution says and what it cannot explain.

This professor looks at a number of the claims of intelligent design proponents and debunks them. Good stuff. But don't expect these people to stop making their idiotic claims because they are not interested in truth, they are interested in what they already believe. Many of the rest of us are not afraid to challenge our ideas - we call it LEARNING!!!

Buying Music

After years of BMG, working in a store that sold used CDs cheaply, and participating in music trading sites, I have not paid full price for a CD in a long time. Hell, it is quite rare that I actually listen to physical CDs! I tend to burn mp3 discs for my car player because I can put 200 songs on it and shuffle through them.

But I read about the latest Steve Earle album in Mother Jones too late to request it for Christmas. Steve Earle is one of those artists (like Franti) that I like to support with a direct purchase (rather than from a used store) to ensure they benefit. So I checked out his site and considered ordering the album directly from him.

But I want to listen to it NOW ... and I actually am listening to it as I write this. This morning I also read that Warner Music Group has pulled its head out of its ass regarding online music sales. As so many other music companies did, they only sold music online in a crippled format via iTunes. iTunes is great as long as you never want to listen to the music on a difference device than those authorized by Apple. It is not great if you want freedom to listen to the song is x years when iTunes is old news.

The solution is here. I bought the entire album off in a high quality (much higher quality than iTunes offers) MP3 format. This means I can play it on any device I CHOOSE. I don't have to ask Apple to authorize the device and I don't to worry that in the future no players will know how play this locked file.

Additionally, the album as an affordable 9 bucks. Well worth it for the latest Steve Earle.

Do not support Apple's iTunes. Do not buy music there. They abused their monopoly online music sales position to require all songs to come locked so only Apple's devices could play them. Independent musicians were forced to shackle their songs to Apple's devices. offers an alternative - you can control what devices will play your music.

If you want to use iTunes to manage your music, the Amazon downloader automatically adds them to it. But if you want to take your music to a different application, you can do that also. You should have the choice, not Apple.

Google Maps

I'm doing some research on mapping programs and I found an answer to the ages old question of where would I go if dug straight down in my backyard to the other end of the earth. This map will show you where you would end up. I would hit Indian ocean....

Yellow Line

NFL games on TV have this great yellow line that tells the audience where the ball must go to earn the offense a first down. I have long wondered about the technology that paints the line because it goes over hash marks and grass, but does not go over the players or referees standing on top of it. It is usually the perfect illusion, people unfamiliar with the sport might actually believe the line is there for people in the stadium to see it. How Stuff Works explains how the line is painted.

PC Inspector

I was recently talking to another photographer about the danger of losing an entire flash card of photos. She had accidentally formatted a card that had important shots on it and was not sure how to recover it so she just lost the photos.

I heard of a great program on the TWIT netcast network called PC Inspector. The software is free and it does a great job of recovering lost files.

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