007 fighting himself.
A long (and now, dated) but interesting article on Livestrong. I found this particular quote interesting:
Equally interesting is what the foundation doesn’t do. Most people—including nearly everybody I surveyed while reporting this story—assume that Livestrong funnels large amounts of money into cancer research. Nope. The foundation gave out a total of $20 million in research grants between 1998 and 2005, the year it began phasing out its support of hard science. A note on the foundation’s website informs visitors that, as of 2010, it no longer even accepts research proposals.
It’s Not About The Lab Rats [Outside Online]
Another smart article from McSweeney’s.
In his nine years with the department, Dr. Jones has failed to complete even one uninterrupted semester of instruction. In fact, he hasn’t been in attendance for more than four consecutive weeks since he was hired. Departmental records indicate Dr. Jones has taken more sabbaticals, sick time, personal days, conference allotments, and temporary leaves than all the other members of the department combined.
Slate has an interesting article on the evolution of airline baggage tags (or ABTs as the cool kids call them). I didn’t realise that Qantas’ Q Bag Tags were so far ahead of the curve.
Let’s look first at how an ABT is made. In the interconnected, automated, all-weather world of modern aviation, tags must be resistant to cold, heat, sunlight, ice, oil, and especially moisture. Tags also can’t tear—and crucially, if they’re nicked, they must not tear further—as the bag lurches through mechanized airport baggage systems. And the tag must be flexible, inexpensive, and disposable. Plain old paper can’t begin to meet all these requirements. The winning combination is what IATA’s spokesperson described as a “complex composite” of silicon and plastic; the only paper in it is in the adhesive backing.
Nate Silver (who runs the NYT Political Polling site FiveThirtyEight) has a new book about the difficulties faced when trying to predict future events. The NYT has an excerpt – in this case, about weather forecasting.
Catering to the demands of viewers can mean intentionally running the risk of making forecasts less accurate. For many years, the Weather Channel avoided forecasting an exact 50 percent chance of rain, which might seem wishy-washy to consumers. Instead, it rounded up to 60 or down to 40. In what may be the worst-kept secret in the business, numerous commercial weather forecasts are also biased toward forecasting more precipitation than will actually occur. (In the business, this is known as the wet bias.) For years, when the Weather Channel said there was a 20 percent chance of rain, it actually rained only about 5 percent of the time.
Following on from the recent article I posted about cheating in marathon running, here’s an article about cheating in a totally different activity (sport?): chess.
But by 2007, a chess engine called Rybka was routinely shutting out grandmasters even when spotting the humans a pawn and taking black, thereby letting humans go first, the more statistically desirable position. Computers have gotten noticeably better since then; humans haven’t.
The man-machine war in chess is no longer contested: “Computers are better than us,” says USCF president Ruth Haring.
A couple years ago, I spoke with Larry Kaufman, a designer of the Rybka software, regarded in recent years as the strongest chess engine on the market. I asked if he worried that his brainchild would be abused by bad guys. Never, he said.
“The cheating part isn’t hard,” Kaufman told me. “Getting away with it is. I don’t think chess players are good enough to get away with it.”
The evolution of cheating in chess [Grantland]
Salman Rushdie has a new book out, focusing on the declaration of a fatwa on him by Ayatollah Khomeini.
The book is written in third person which is a little disconcerting. I found the details of his security and hiding far more interesting that that of the history of the book itself. The New Yorker has an excerpt.
“How does it feel,” she asked him, “to know that you have just been sentenced to death by Ayatollah Khomeini?” It was a sunny Tuesday in London, but the question shut out the light. This is what he said, without really knowing what he was saying: “It doesn’t feel good.” This is what he thought: I’m a dead man
The Disappeared: How the fatwa changed a writer’s life. [The New Yorker]