Archive for the ‘Technology’ category

Your Cat Wants Emule

October 31, 2006

Slate argues that internet porn prevents rape:

Similarly, psychologists have found that male subjects, immediately after watching pornography, are more likely to express misogynistic attitudes. But as professor Kendall points out, we need to be clear on what those experiments are testing: They are testing the effects of watching pornography in a controlled laboratory setting under the eyes of a researcher. The experience of viewing porn on the Internet, in the privacy of one’s own room, typically culminates in a slightly messier but far more satisfying experience—an experience that could plausibly tamp down some of the same aggressions that the pornus interruptus of the laboratory tends to stir up.

This probably won’t strike much of a chord with the “rape is not about sex” crowd, but it could be an idea for how to keep the prowling cats at bay.

Natives Happy In Squalor: Coonan

August 8, 2006

Communications Minister Helen Coonan says most Australians are happy with the speed of their broadband connections.

And why shouldn’t they be? The fact that the rest of the world lives in brick houses with air conditioning has never worried Congolese Pygmies. Why should the fact that our broadband service is the worst in the developed world worry us?

I recommend you all start to pay your taxes in grain or livestock, to reflect the government’s admission that we are now a third-world country.

GM The Only Hope For Bananas?

August 3, 2006

It seems that tropical cyclones are the least of worries for banana lovers everywhere (and anyone who is worried about Australia’s banana-led inflation woes).

The current dominant banana variety – Cavendish, is the successor to the original dessert banana, the Gros Michel banana, a strain that was all but wiped out by fungal diseases in the 1950s.

Gros Michel bananas (which were reportedly much better tasting than the modern Cavendish banana) are not extinct, but their susceptibility to disease means that it is impossible to grow them in quantities suitable for commercial production.

The Cavendish banana is the most commonly grown variety primarily because of its suitability to transportation and storage, and its relatively long shelf-life compared to other banana varieties.

Unfortunately, new and more virulent strains of the same fungal diseases that wiped out the Gros Michel are now starting to affect the harvest of Cavendish bananas too. So much so that scientists predict that the Cavendish is unlikely to be a viable variety within 10-20 years.

The problem with bananas is a unique one. Commercial bananas are reproduced by cuttings rather than seeding, which means that every banana plant is a clone – containing the exact same genetic material as its parent plant. Therefore, any disease which can wipe out one banana plantation can wipe them all out just as easily.

And the disappearance of bananas is not just an inconvenience. While mostly used as a dessert or finger food in developed countries, green bananas (or plantains) are the staple starch of many developing countries, especially in Africa. A banana blight would be an economic and humanitarian disaster there, along the same lines as the Irish potato famine, only on a much larger scale.

Most scientists agree that the only hope for the banana is Genetic Modification – a prospect that is less than attractive for many, especially the tools in the EU who react to the letters “GM” similarly to how your average Australian lefty reacts to the words “John Howard”.

However, the banana is unique because the banana fruit itself is sterile. It is not capable of seeding itself and can only be reproduced by cuttings, thereby allaying one of the major fears of anti-GM activists – rogue GM plants running wild. Scientists started sequencing the banana genome in 2001 and are already on their way to creating fungus-resistant bananas.

Despite this, the usual suspects say that they would never eat GM bananas. 82% of british consumers surveyed said they would never consider eating GM bananas even if they were proved safe.

Unfortunately for those luddites, it seems as though they will probably have no choice. In the near future there will be no such thing as a non-GM banana. The irony is that while GM is probably the only hope for bananas, bananas are equally the great white hope for other GM foods in traditionally opposed markets like Europe. Once consumers are forced to eat GM bananas (or no bananas at all), they will quite quickly come to the realisation that eating GM foods won’t cause you to grow a 3rd eye and the irrational opposition to GM will start to wane.

And so really, the unfortunate plight of bananas may eventually be a boon to the rest of the world, if it ends up being the catalyst for the eventual worldwide acceptance of GM foods. We can only hope.

It’s A Space Ship

June 23, 2004

Today’s Australian has a photo gallery of SpaceShipOne’s launch on Monday.

Space Page

June 22, 2004

Regular Samizdata contributor Dale Amon has a series of posts presenting an insider’s view of the world’s first privately developed Spaceship, which entered space for the first time yesterday.

Monday’s flight followed a series of test runs for SpaceShipOne, which is the lead contender in a $10 million race to fly a three-passenger, reusable craft to suborbital altitude, then repeat the feat within two weeks. More than two dozen teams have entered the X-Prize, which expires at the end of this year.

Rutan developed SpaceShipOne with funding from Microsoft co-founder Allen, who said he spent more than $20 million on the program.

“We built a complete manned program from scratch for the price of one of those government studies,” Rutan said.

Catch up with the action at Samizdata.

Update: Alan E. Brain has…an update.

Purple Patch

May 1, 2004

A fascinating article in Wired on the newest developments in Aquaculture:

“The ocean is full of predictable currents, or gyres,” Goudey says. “If you could get the cage into one of these gyres, it would essentially stay in the same place, or at least have a predictable trajectory. Even if you had just a slight ability to adjust its movement, you’d be able to control its path pretty exactly.” In his view, “you could build a fleet of these things in the Straits of Florida, fill them with fingerlings of, say, cobia, and let them follow the Gulf Stream for nine months until they reached their intended market in Europe with a harvestable crop. Then you’d load them up again and send them back along the southern route with another crop.”

Fittingly titled “The Bluewater Revolution”, Ehrlich fans will find little of value here.

Not On Your Spuds

February 21, 2004

For all of you who have been tormented by the “Irish Virus“, never fear:

The Irish Virus is a hoax and it should be ignored. The following is a sample of the hoax message:

Greetings, You have just received the “IRISH VIRUS”. As we don’t have any programming experience, this Virus works on the honour system. Please delete all the files on your hard drive manually and forward this Virus to everyone on your mailing list. Thank you for your cooperation.

You can all switch your PCs back on now.

Greenpeace Kills, Blinds

February 5, 2004

>From Aaron Oakley comes this link to an essay by Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore. Moore details the effects of allowing anti-humanist luddites to have too much input into the GM debate:

The case of “Golden Rice” provides a clear illustration of this. Hundreds of millions of people in Asia and Africa suffer from Vitamin A deficiency. Among them, half a million children lose their eyesight each year, and millions more suffer from lesser symptoms. Golden Rice has the potential to greatly reduce the suffering, because it contains the gene that makes daffodils yellow, infusing the rice with beta-carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A. Ingo Potrykus, the Swiss co-inventor of Golden Rice, has said that a commercial variety is now available for planting, but that it will be at least five years before Golden Rice will be able to work its way through the byzantine regulatory system that has been set up as a result of the activists’ campaign of misinformation and speculation. So the risk of not allowing farmers in Africa and Asia to grow Golden Rice is that another 2.5 million children will probably go blind.

You can add those 2.5 million to the millions who have died as a result of the DDT ban.

At least they still have their traditional culture though, right?

It’s All About HELIUM

January 19, 2004

The real reason behind Bush’s new space program is HERE!

The Lada Niva Of Browsers

September 2, 2003

Stew Kelly still reads Pravda:

When I get my broadband connection……which will be any month now, I’ll be able to download stuff like the Mozilla Firebird internet browser, which by all (well, some) accounts craps all over IE.

Downloaded it, installed it, uninstalled it. Mozilla, like it’s fellow traveller Netscape, doesn’t support javascript properly and doesn’t correctly render CSS. It also runs much more slowly than IE, uses more system resources, and tries to download ridiculous rubbish like “Realplayer”.

So here’s your dissenting report: Mozilla is a giant pile of shit. Opera is much better, and IE is better still. Long live Bill Gates.

Readers of this site who use Netscape and/or Mozilla frequently advise me that my site is broken. My site isn’t broken, that visual distortion you are experiencing is 1994 asking for its browser back.