Archive for the ‘Software’ Category
Fascinating. Derek Mead writes at Motherboard:
Megacities are our future. It’s simple math: When you’ve got one Earth and an unending boom in population growth, the gravitational pull of the world’s economic and population centers will continue to drag rural dwellers in—if the Sprawl doesn’t absorb them by default.
A United Nations report from July lays the issue bare: This year, some 54 percent of the world lived in urban centers, a number projected to grow to 66 percent by 2050. That growth “could add another 2.5 billion people to urban populations by 2050, with close to 90 percent of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa.”
The same report also notes that in 1990, there were ten megacities of 10 million people or more on Earth; now there are 28, 16 of which are located in Asia. Keeping a city of that size running is challenge enough, but what happens when they morph into sprawling regions with populations ten times larger?
The video above gives us a glimpse, even if it’s based on an 11-year-old video game (but a pretty realistic one at that). Peter Richie spent eight months planning and building a megacity in vanilla SimCity 4, and the end result is mind-boggling (especially as a former mayor myself): 107.7 million people living in one massive, sprawling region. I’ll let Richie’s stats speak for themselves:
81 large city tiles to make one Mega-Region
26,542 km of paved road (16,492 miles)
8,626 km of subway lines (5,360 miles)
324 Hydrogen power plants (6,000,000 megawatts of energy)
486 Waste to Energy Plants
512 Large Water Pumps
Over 2,000 elementary and high schools
81 Universities, 162 Colleges
Richie told me that he initially came up with the goal for a 100 million person region “using no mods and no cheats” back in December, and spent a couple months planning things out before beginning construction in March. . .
Here’s the city being built:
Of course, this all collapses with global warming: not enough food, plus large cities seem to me quite fragile, depending an a complex network of cooperation, communication, and transport, all of which will break down as food becomes scarce.
Very interesting article on an app to supercharge your iOS video. Hayley Tsukayama reports in the Washington Post:
Video editing is often neither quick nor easy, but Fly aims to make shooting footage from your phone’s camera a little bit of both. The app has a simple look that makes it easy to shoot video — including a built-in reminder to shoot in the horizontal landscape orientation for more professional-looking videos. Users can combine multiple short clips for quick videos and use basic editing features, such as the ability to adjust the volume of each clip individually, for free. They can share finished videos over YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.
Fly undoubtedly works best when you pay for additional features that include the ability to trim and reorder clips, add voice-overs or music from a stock library, add transitions or use tools that let you include split-screen or picture-in-picture footage. Those cost $5.99 as a package, and will seriously up the quality of your mini-movies. Ideally, Fly would include at least some of these features in the free version — trimming and reordering come to mind — but the overall quality of the app mitigates some of that high price. Free, with optional add-ons, for iOS devices.
$6 sounds like a good deal to get that kind of capability.
Take a look at this review of rTRACKER. I would buy it in a heartbeat if I had a smartphone—and if I had a smartphone, I think I would go with iPhone based on what I’ve been reading about security issues: Android phones, in being more open, are also more vulnerable. But even the iPhone is a little unsettling in how much info is collected.
Still, for me it’s not an issue: I’m mostly at home. But I do like rTRACKER.
Anki (free) is a terrific tool for learning anything that requires some level of memorization—which almost everything does, but particularly language: vocabulary must be learned, and though the affix system of Esperanto helps a lot, the roots must still be learned.
Take a look a these excellent comments on Anki and its power.
And note this partial list of decks available:
It should be noted, however, that it’s a very good idea to build your own deck from the book you are working from: it helps you learn the material just from building the deck, and it’s also convenient that the deck matches the book.
And just in time, I’d say. As the US becomes increasingly inequitable and increasingly polarized culturally, having some overall measures that can show trends—that might well be useful. Casey Cep writes in the New Yorker:
On April 10, 1901, Duncan Macdougall, a physician in Haverhill, Massachusetts, completed an experiment designed to measure the human soul, the first of six he would complete in his lifetime. Using an industrial scale designed for weighing silk, accurate to one-fifth of an ounce, Macdougall weighed a male tuberculosis patient before and immediately after he died. It took three hours and forty minutes for the man to expire, and at the moment of his death he lost three-fourths of an ounce. This, by Macdougall’s calculations, was the weight of the human soul.
According to Mary Roach’s book Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Macdougall didn’t publish his findings until 1907, when his research appeared in both the Journal of the American Society for Physical Research and American Medicine. In March of that year, the Times ran a story called “Soul Has Weight, Physician Thinks.” Perhaps because he wasn’t able to find additional human subjects, Macdougall performed the rest of his research on dogs, which he determined had no souls because their weights did not change after death.
Last January, John Ortberg, a senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, and Bradley Wright, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, released a simpler way of measuring a soul: SoulPulse, a technology project that captures real-time data on the spirituality of Americans. SoulPulse attempts to quantify the soul, an unbodied version of what FitBit, the exercise-tracking device, has done for the body. After filling in a brief intake survey on your age, race, ethnicity, education, income, and religious affiliation, SoulPulse contacts you twice a day with questions about your physical health, spiritual disciplines, and religious experiences. Each of the surveys takes less than five minutes to complete.
Baptized in the Lutheran Church, and a believer, I enrolled in SoulPulse for two weeks. I told it how I’d slept and what I’d been doing, whether I’d had anything to drink or taken any drugs, who I was with, if I’d been praying or worshiping, how close I felt to God. There were drop-down menus, slider buttons, and actual buttons to click, but no narrative answers were accepted. Day to day, I felt like I was adding up my spiritual position. Just how joyful was I? How peaceful? How grateful? Was I more aware of God when I was commuting or when I was using a computer? I had participated in a few research studies before, but I had never felt the observer effect—in which a subject changes her behavior as a result of feeling watched—so strongly. I didn’t doubt the experiment’s guarantee of anonymity, but being asked about my spiritual disciplines made me more eager to practice them.
One busy afternoon, I wondered how long it had been since I’d prayed, and realized that it had not been since that morning. Being asked so often to look for God’s presence made me want to be more aware of it, an experience not unlike gathering for worship on a Sunday morning, when the liturgy of the church makes me aware of things seen and unseen, attentive to the known and unknown. I asked Ortberg and Wright about the observer effect, and about a deeper skepticism I have about quantifying spirituality. I am a strong believer, but I chafe at any kind of program or book series that promises rewards or guarantees sacred fruits. Spirituality, it seems to me, is a thing that can not be counted.
Ortberg, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology, listened to my concerns, and said, “On the one hand, not everything can be put in a test tube or seen with a microscope. The most important dimensions of life have to do with the spirit, and those aren’t always quantifiable. But using the best tools and methods available seems like a worthwhile thing.” He also stressed that, while SoulPulse is using new tools, it is answering old questions. Describing Brother Lawrence’s “The Practice of the Presence of God,” a seventeenth-century text that linked God’s presence to daily tasks like doing the dishes and cooking meals, Ortberg said that believers across the centuries have tried to cultivate a mindfulness of the holy. He also pointed to Frank Laubach’s “The Game With Minutes,” a book from 1953 that taught practitioners to turn their minds toward God as often as possible, at least one second of every minute of every day.
“This is trying to use technology to gauge and enhance a tremendously old practice, to be aware of, to look for the divine in everyday experience,” Ortberg said. SoulPulse is simply a technological attempt at creating something like . . .
List how many ways the sample is biased. Not sure how generalizable it will be, but it will be interesting to see the trends.
But these guys are going about it all wrong. They should do a free app that fires off questions at random times during the day, and user can set number of times a day s/he will tolerate. The various answers update an ever-growing database that is summarized in real time (accessible chart via smartphone) in charts of the overall SoulPlus readings. Real-time viewing of an aspect of the public mind. Intriguing—and fantastic marketing info.
In fact, now that I think about it, isn’t that somewhat like the sort of thing Facebook would do?
Two words: random reinforcement, the strongest conditioning possible, as I recall. And whenever you look at a subreddit, it has changed somewhat—new entries, reorganizations, replies marked “(new)” if you use Reddit Enhancement Suite, which you surely should.
So that’s one reward: novelty at a comfortable level. And then sometimes, less often, among the differences is something that strikes your fancy, some point of interest to you. And that’s a real reward, since you really like that one, and it comes randomly.