The Null Device


A book titled The Hidden Key to Harry Potter claims that the Potter books are Christian literature in the Inkling tradition of Tolkien and C.S.Lewis, written to "baptise the imagination", and not the anti-Christian propaganda various religiots have been claiming them to be. The article points to a lot of Christian symbolism in the books (though how much of that is deliberate is another question; after all, the abovementioned religiots pointed to "symbols of evil" throughout the books). Interesting that it claims that Gilderoy Lockhart, the villainous charlatan, is modelled on the atheist author Philip Pullman; I wonder whether that was Rowling's intention or the interpretation of the author of the book. (via FmH)

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FOAF is a way of specifying personal information about a person, including nicknames, links to homepages and lists of people they know, in a XML document. The result is machine-readable "semantic web" homepages which can be traversed, forming social networks; in other words, something like Friendster, only open, XML-based and without the emphasis on bootywhang (though surely someone will come up with a namespace for that in due time), and traversable by any of the countless FOAF browsers due to be written in Perl, Python and Java any day now, or by the web-based FOAF Explorer; if your browser does SVG, there's even a graphical network browser there you can use.

So how do you make yourself a FOAF document? You can get started with the FOAF-A-Matic (Javascript required). (thanks, cos)

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A New York Times journalist tries on a magnetic helmet that gives savant-like skills. The transcranial magnetic stimulator, at the University of Sydney, works by shutting down some parts of the brain, causing other parts to operate similarly to the way they do in autistic savants; i.e., giving awareness of details which are often edited out when a normal brain forms the "big picture" from them. The journalist in question was asked to draw pictures of cats and dogs and perform various mental tests at different stages of the process. Some speculate that such helmets may eventually find their way onto the market, with students using them before taking examinations (which wouldn't surprise me at all). The implications may be even more far-reaching; for example, perhaps we'll eventually see the International Olympic Committee start testing chess players for the effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation? (via MeFi)

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