Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fire and Rain and the Governator

If http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7057888.stm#map>this was a movie, then the governator would have built a Time Tunnel and conencted the waters of the mississippeee to the fires of california and put the poor of New Orleans and the Rich of Malibu out of their misery at one swell foop. But it isn't a movie, so Joni's friends will all be saved, while Sachmo's legacy was washed away when the levee broke (again). Maybe Zepplin could do a special gig and play that one extra loud? Maby Dick wil happen.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gore Blimey with Science

Some people seem to criticise the Gore film and Peace Prize (and global warming arguments) because
of inaccuracy (sometimes deliberate, sometimes accidental) - I think it is clear that if
someone makes up a completely false argument to reach a completely false conclusion,
then that would be pretty bad but I think theres a misunderstanding of the role both of
of science, and of the public understanding of science here.

No science is 100% accurate - anyone who claims so is a religious fanatic:)
Science (and its apparent progress) is a series of successive approximations
to more useful predictive rules about how the world will operate based on the past,
with a set of public instructions on how you can verify the rules yourself,
or see other people do so.

Occasionally, rules are even overthrown, although usually, they are "improved"m giving rise
to the unfortunate idea that they are converging on some sort of accurate model of the true
(or "platonic ideal") universe, although most scientists would make no such claim.

The errors in the Gore movie are well known and do not detract from the overall argument -
a recent court case in the UK about showing the movie in schools as part of education
was wo in favour of the movie, provided the discussion of the errors is part of the

THis is entirely a Good Thing, since the general argument, but also the fallability of scientists
is an important lesson. But more so: the fact that Nothing is ever 100% proven, but that a
statistical argument has to be made "on balance" is an even more important lesson. Systematic
as well as random errors are part of any science - indeed, in biology (as well as in Computer Science)
both systematic (mistaken assumptions, methodological errors) as well as random errors
(noise, stochastic variation in the environment - e.g. users:), are a fact of life,
so deal with it:)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Monkeying about with the Internet in Myanmar

So how an the Burmese Junta oppress people so much and even suppress the use of the net
pretty effectively, when similar uprisings (e.g. in former USSR to support Gorbachev during the abortive coup) worked so well using "underground" networks?

1. wasn't the top level design goal for IP was ever thus (attack proof/survivable)??

2. Yes, but what changed was it got embedded into infrastructures by incumbents
(dont care if its cisco, microsoft, isps, telcos, governments, organised religion, power, water, whatever)

3. Most people working in dtn and extreme (e.g. developing world) wireless have your
architecture and goals in mind...but we aren't there yet, sorry t say...

4. read "The 9 billion names of god", before you say that monks are part of the solution.

buddhist soldiers maybe...

Also, imho
the reason the grassroots net worked in russia during the attempted regain of cntrol by central forces resisting GLasnost and Perestroikia
was that RUsiians could not "organise a piss up in a brewery" so despite 70 years of the kremlin, the kgb and politburo had a completely useless idea of
things like telephones and other means of organised resistence

despite cold-warriors insistent ranting, this is not a feature of communism - it was is strong cultural feature of _russia_ - they've been like this under
Tsars, Mongols and post CIS - other communist/fascist regimes, or sorry, military dictatorships (China, and, alas, Burma, and, alas North Korea)
are well organised and can control modern technology to use it
as yet another means of oppression (oh, and lets not forget Saudi Arabia...)

interestingly enough, the US probably has quite a robust set of alterantives to the centralised control of internet/telephone (e.g. cb radio etc)
so if Bush goes completely mad and invokes special powers to stay on instead of letting Hilary return to the WH, maybe you'll see
decentralised armed resistence once again for the first time since you kicked "us" out (I use the term "us" loosely since back thenm my ancestors were
being disorganised in Russia, Poland, deepest Yorkshire and Scotland...
so didnt have much to do with British colonies, thank you very much).