The Null Device


The final chapter of the Spanish-American War is about to close, as the US Treasury Department prepares to eliminate a tax on telephone calls imposed to fund the war back in 1898 (back when telephones were a luxury item). It only took the bureaucracy 108 years, two world wars and the rise and fall of the Soviet bloc (not to mention the Spanish Civil War, the rise and fall of Franco's Fascism and Spain's accession into the US-allied NATO alliance, a mere 24 years earlier) to acknowledge that they are no longer at war with Spain.

(via Gizmodo) history spanish-american war usa 1

Philosophers have solved one of the great conundra, the question of which came first: the chicken or the egg. The answer: the egg came first, even if you implicitly exclude non-chicken eggs:

Genetic material does not change during an animal's life. Therefore, the first bird that evolved into what we would call a chicken, probably in prehistoric times, must first have existed as an embryo inside an egg.
Professor John Brookfield, a specialist in evolutionary genetics at the University of Nottingham, who was put to work on the dilemma, said that the pecking order was perfectly clear: the living organism inside the eggshell would have the same DNA as the chicken that it would become.
Of course, the conclusion is not entirely indisputable, especially in the non-reality-based community:
Creationists, for example, will argue that if God created Adam and Eve, he probably had a spare five minutes to knock up a chicken as well.

amusing genetics philosophy 0

Another article on C86, the lo-fi indie compilation that's 20 years old this week, this time on the Sweeping The Nation blog.

Meanwhile, Berlin C86-influenced indiepop label Firestation Records, or perhaps Firestation Tower Records, (they're the ones who released the "Sounds of Leamington Spa" compilation CDs of late-1980s British indie-pop single releases, as well as various album rereleases from the same milieu) have released a compilation that could well be C06. Of course, they didn't have the gall to call it that, so it just has the rather generic title of "New British Invasion", and includes bands like The Pipettes and Vincent Vincent and the Villains, rather than the more generic and commercial Carling-indie that NME would have filled up any official C06™ with.

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The British government is finally considering legalising low-power FM transmitters, of the sort used to transmit sound from MP3 players to FM radios. In the UK, anything that transmits on licensed frequencies (such as those used for FM radio), at any power level whatsoever, requires a licence from the Secretary of State; (In contrast, in the US, it is legal to use transmitters below a certain power level without a licence.) With the popularity of iPods and their ilk, the law hasn't been enforced as rigorously as it might be; the devices started appearing quite openly in shops on Tottenham Court Road a year or two ago, with the retailers, when questioned, hemming and hawing about the legality of using them.

Any change in the law to legalise the devices will require them to "meet strict technical standard to minimize interference to other radio users". Presumably these will include making them robustly unmodifiable to prevent them from being adapted into high-power FM transmitters, which are in demand by the large numbers of pirate radio stations across the UK.

law tech uk 0