The Null Device
I just came back from the Atheist Society meeting, where one Dr. Mark Newbrook gave a speech titled Nutters I Have Known. It was most entertaining; Newbrook spoke for just over an hour, and catalogued a long list of various schools of independent thought he had come in contact with; highlights included one P.N. Oak's Vedic history of the world (according to him, the name Australia comes from the Hindi "Astralaya", or "land of missiles"), Ted Holden's particularly eccentric take on neo-Velikovskianism, Reverse Speech, a thornbush in Geelong said to have been descended from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, Richard Shaver's Deros, Reptoids, and an Australian named Rex Gilroy who claims that there are pyramids and live dinosaurs in the outback. As you can imagine, it was highly entertaining, especially to those interested in matters psychoceramic.
The talk was quite well attended; it was in a smaller room than usual (as the Comedy Festival had apparently taken the usual venue), and the room was full, with people sitting on the floor. At the end, when the time came for questions, one member of the audience (a middle-aged gent who said that he was a qualified electrical engineer and taught himself physics) got up and claimed that quantum physics is itself an insane idea, and one riddled with falsehood and fraud. Apparently he had come up with a thought experiment disproving it, and challenged the physics department at Melbourne University to send someone to debate him at the Speakers' Forum, but the physicists, entrenched in their ivory tower, did not deign to take him up on this. (Or perhaps they were afraid that he would thoroughly discredit them?) Towards the end, he mentioned something about how a supercollider said to be on the verge of discovering a quark was condemned, to be replaced with a new supercollider, and suggesting that this was done to keep the discovery from taking place and not challenge deeply held theories concerning the quark; this, according to him, was standard scientific practice.
System administrators at the University of North California were at a loss to find the location of a network server. The server was working properly and responding to requests, but hadn't been seen for four years. Finally, they tracked it down by following cables, finding that it had been mistakenly sealed behind a wall by maintenance workers.
Slightly old news: Stepping into the dot-com era (though arguably some 12 months too late), the British Post Office has changed its name to Consignia, a meaningless yet fashionably new-economyish word. At least it doesn't end in "-ent". However, the venerable organisation will also adopt a swirly logo. The name and the logo cost the British taxpayer £500,000.
Studies have shown that viewers are less likely to remember commercials in violent TV shows than in non-violent ones. I suspect that it generalises to anything that induces excitement (tension/release) and altered states in the viewers impairing retention of advertisements. Though stating it as "violent" programs having this commercially harmful effect may be a political move, to persuade marketers that the War On Violence is good business rather than a potential loss of revenues.
A look at four of the worst video games of all time. (From my own misspent video-game-playing youth, I seem to recall a number of naff Commodore 64 arcade conversions/movie licences, though can't remember enough details to send them in. Though generally the more marketing gimmicks a game has attached to it, the more pants it is likely to be.)
Dave Winer on Microsoft's hijacking of SOAP.
Timothy McVeigh: self-styled Jedi knight?
Welcome to the Digital Millennium: In its implementation of the WIPO treaty, the EU bans peer-to-peer file sharing. Consumers will be allowed to download copyrighted materials, in an appropriately encrypted secure format to their SAP-enabled Windows PCs or trusted music player clients. Member states have 18 months to ratify and enforce the laws.
Trainspotting: They're electrifying the railway line to Sydenham, out beyond St Albans; apparently some locals at St Albans are threatening to block trains if the proposed alterations go ahead and a lot more trains pass through the crossing, unless the whole thing is put underground. Hmmm... according to this map, there is also a "proposed" extension of the Epping line (which once ran all the way to Whittlesea) to South Morang. (Wonder if the diesel locomotives which pass outside where I live every Thursday night have anything to do with this...)