State of the World Index

There are a great many indices that attempt to measure aspects of the world, and quite a few consolidated indices (like the HDI) that create measures out of a number of other indices.


I thought that it might be a fun project to put together a single index that produces a single number for the “state of the world”.

It won’t necessarily mean anything, but it would be amusing to track over time.

I can do the programming work, but I could really use help figuring out which indices to include, and how to weight them. Opinions please!

A few possibilities can be found here:

Is BitCoin Arbitrage Feasible?

BitCoin has been in the news lately with its rapid rise in exchange value, its huge fluctuations in intra-day value, and the susceptibility of services using it to hacking attacks.

It should be obvious to any observer that a position (in the investment term, not opinion) in BTC is speculative in nature, and carries any number of risks that are hard to evaluate.

There may be a way for investors to make money on BTC through arbitrage though – with relatively well-defined and calculable risks. Continue reading

Wheel plans, lock-in and VW

The basic layout of vehicles on the road (in North America, anyhow) is amazingly homogenous. Think about it: there are cars with four wheels, motorcycles with two, and trucks with anywhere from four to twenty-plus wheels (in two varieties – attached and detached cabs).

The last time I saw a three-wheeled T-Rex, it looked so outlandishly exotic, that a crowd gathered around it (the owner had parked it on the sidewalk outside a store). You don’t usually see that even with exotic Italian supercars.

There’s actually a lot of experimentation with wheel plans (i.e. the vehicle equivalent of room plans in a home), but we don’t see it much on a day-to-day basis. Continue reading

Faster 3D Printing

One of the drawbacks with current 3D printing technology is the slow rate at which objects are built up in layers from hot plastic thread. The process of printing objects of any significant size can take hours.

Using a technique similar to airbrushes may speed things up. If the source material is in a fine powdered form instead of a solid thread, and is pushed through the print head (or nozzle in this case) under pressure, then it is simply a matter of determining a way to accrete the plastic into a solid object. Continue reading

Computational Area Networks

There’s an asymmetry in the data center, and it might be an opportunity for somebody to build a new product line (hint, hint: HP, Dell).

There are plenty of products that consist of a box filled with storage devices – we call them SANs (storage area networks). They’re essentially what allows big data to exist, by packing large amounts of storage into a relatively small space.

So why not do something with CPUs (central processing units) that replicates the idea behind the SAN? Continue reading

Moving past passwords

Under lock and key - Flickr Creative Commons - JanetR3
Under lock and key – Flickr Creative Commons – JanetR3

The problem isn’t anything new, really – most people have hundreds of accounts on different websites.

The username is usually their email address, and the password…well the password tends to be the same on all of the sites, and it is usually eight characters or less.

It is simply too hard for most people to memorize passwords much longer than that.

So they use something simple like “12345678”, and the next thing they know, they’ve been well and truly pwnz0red.

Continue reading

Just a thought

Humanity is really just in early Beta.

We’ve had some successes, a few spectacular failures, and a pivot or two.

We don’t really know yet what we are able to achieve, or what we can will become.

Isn’t that exciting?

What’s wrong with the Dreamliner?

In case you haven’t heard, Boeing has been having battery troubles with its new flagship Dreamliner aircraft. The batteries have occasionally been catching fire, and the planes are now grounded until they determine what the issue is.

Hopefully they’ve figured this out already, but there’s one big difference between their on-the-ground tests, and a live flight – the passengers.

I wonder if they’ve tried plugging in a couple of hundred randomly selected laptops into the passenger , and seeing what happens to the electrical system then?

Sounds silly? What if one (or half a dozen) of them has a bad battery, or an electrical short circuit?

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Conclusion

This is the final post in the Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook series. For part one, please see here.

A brief word about science: I’ve avoided discussing planetary science in this series, because it has been covered so well, in so many other places. The traditional vision of a trip to Mars, in the guise of a 1980’s US/USSR joint mission, revolved heavily around the idea of sending a small group of people, for a relatively short period of time, with largely scientific objectives. This is completely different from the various colonization concepts that have circulated in recent years. Regardless of why people go to Mars though, a lot of serious scientific work will be done. The advantages of having a large number of people present, along with a well-equipped laboratory, are immense. We cannot conceive yet of the discoveries that will result. Continue reading

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Part 8

What happens when things go horribly wrong on Mars? Help from Earth would take months to arrive, and would have a transportation bottleneck.

The colony will need to have a contingency plan for all possibilities, as well as a full range of emergency services. Continue reading