Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Top 15 Skylines in the World

The Top 15 Skylines in the World. Seattle is No 15 :). Nice panoramic photographs in the article.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Hawk-eye

Today I saw the Hawk-eye technology in action in tennis for the first time, in the game between Federer and Clement. Now players can challenge upto 2 line calls in a set (3 if there is a tie-breaker). I think it is a cool technology given the fact that we get the results right away (less than 10 seconds). And it should also reduce player tantrums on disputable line calls. If you are not happy, challenge the call. Doodh ka doodh, pani ka pani right away. But that also leaves the budding McEnroes going "You cannot be serious" :)

There were talks of using hawkeye for LBWs in cricket. But that one's a bad idea, as unlike tennis, in cricket you have to predict the path of the ball after it hits the pads. And since we still do not know the exact physics behind the swing of the ball, any technique will essentially be non-deterministic. There are just too many variables for it to be an exact system. Also it will introduce unnecessary delays in the game as the third umpire will have to make decisions in this case.

Technology is useful... but we should take care it does not make us stupid.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Imagine, no countries

Here is the natural progression of human political structures through the ages.
  1. A million years ago humans lived as hunter-gatherers. We foraged & hunted for food. Humans lived in tribes, each tribe going up to a maximum of 50 to 100 people.
  2. Sometime around 10,000 ago, we had advanced to an agricultural lifestyle. Agriculture gave humans more control over their food supply, required settled occupation of territory and encouraged larger social groups with the emergence of towns & city-states.
  3. From couple of thousands to hundreds of years ago, the world progressed to having kingdoms & territories. Mostly imperialistic, a king or queen ruled over a certain territory exercising absolute control.
  4. Kingdoms evolved into nations. With a few exceptions, most of the present day nations are a collection of kingdoms we saw in stage 3. A perfect example would be that of India.
What’s next? Following the simple progression, here’s what next:
  1. Some years from now we will have even larger political groups. Power could be distributed among continents or some other larger divisions. We are seeing this effect already in some cases such as the European Union.
  2. And very soon after that, we will have the world as a single political unit. Of course, it sounds absurd and preposterous at this time, but the time will come.
We can see an exponentially decreasing time span through stages 1-4. So we can really expect to breeze through stages 5 & 6, possibly in this century itself. Of course we may have achieved Singularity till then, which might put all of this in an entirely different context.

If countries themselves are so ephemeral, most of them not more than a hundred years old, where does this put concepts like “pride for my country” & “greatest country in the world” & “country with a rich culture”?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

My Web 2.0

With a whole slew of Web 2.0 sites (next generation, social, interactive, "AJAX"y sites) coming up by the day, here are the ones I frequently use. A couple of them are very popular, the rest not that commonly used. And I am not including obvious ones like gmail & Live maps
  • Bloglines: RSS Aggregator. All my news, blogs, photo-feeds, weather at one place. Probably my most visited site of the day. Cons: The site could do with a visual makeover.
  • Rememberthemilk.com: It's a very cool, online todo list. Very helpful since I don't have to bother remembering chores anymore. It has a whole lot of keyboard shortcuts which makes using it a breeze.
  • del.icio.us: Bookmarks manager. Anyone adding sites to browser bookmarks (IE Favorites or Firefox Bookmarks) will know how quickly it becomes bloated & unwieldy. With del.icio.us, your bookmarks are stored online & you can associate tags with them, so storing & searching them becomes so much easier. You can also search through other people's bookmarks & check out the most popular ones.
  • Zoto.com: Online photo storage. It doesn't have the upload restrictions that Flickr has. It also has an option to view full size pics which most of the other sites lack. Other features include a multiple photo uploading tool, tagging & feeds.
  • Librarything.com: A social book manager. For each book you add to your catalog you can add one or several tags that describe the book. You can then compare tags with other Library Thing users, search across tags, books, authors, see who else has read the books you have, which books are most popular among users etc.
Which ones do you find cool & useful?