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Monday Topsight, March 5, 2007

• Pope-Emperor Declares Victory to Washington Officialdom: Mr. Sterling gets a Washington Post opinion page platform!

It's the Net vs. the 20th-century fossil order in a fight that the cybergreens are winning. Why? Because they're not about spiritual potential, human decency, small is beautiful, peace, justice or anything else unattainable. The cybergreens are about stuff people want, such as health, sex, glamour, hot products, awesome bandwidth, tech innovation and tons of money.

We're gonna glam, spend and consume our way into planetary survival.

A welcome companion to the more DC-friendly, muscular Geo-Greens and post-hippie Glowing-Greens.

• Rob Carlson's "Thoughts on Open Biology": One of the founding thinkers of "open source biology," Carlson here argues that simply "open biology" is a better way to approach the concept -- and notes that there's still much to do before open biology makes its mark:

As in 2000, I remain today most interested in maintaining, and enhancing, the ability to innovate. In particular, I feel that safe and secure innovation is likely to be best achieved through distributed research and through distributed biological manufacturing. By "Open Biology" I mean access to the tools and skills necessary to participate in that innovation and distributed economy.

"Open source biology" and "open source biotechnology" are catchy phrases, but they have little if any content for the moment. As various non-profits get up and running (e.g., CAMBIA and the BioBrick Foundation), some of the vagaries will be defined, and at least we will have some structure to talk about and test in the real world. When there is a real license a la the GPL, or the Lesser License, and when it is finally tested in court we will have some sense of how this will all work out.

This is an important essay, and it deserves more attention than I'm giving it here. I hope to circle back to it when I'm home from SXSW.

• Happy Celebrate Our Monkey Ancestors Day!: A piece I wrote awhile back noting that "no religion" is the third-most-popular "faith" in the US illuminated something about the country that few people in media or politics really want to acknowledge: increasingly, we're just not very religious. Over the last 15 years, the population of the US has grown by about 15%; in that same period, the number of US adults who do not attend church has nearly doubled, from 39 million to 75 million. Blogger and analyst Bill Scher, commenting during the Conservative Political Action Conference this last week, argued that, rather than liberals having a "religion problem," the more accurate analysis would be that conservatives have a "secular problem" -- and a pretty big one, too.

Democrats crushed Republicans among secular voters, broadly defined as those who attend church seldom (favoring Democrats 60% to 38%) or never (67% to 30%). Republicans retained strong support among those who attend church more than weekly. But among those who only go weekly -- the larger portion of the religious vote -- the Republican lead shrunk from 15 points to 7.

Just another data point showing that, especially when it comes to cultural traditions and beliefs, established narratives hold more sway over media and political representations of reality than do the facts -- but we shouldn't build our scenarios and models based on what we assume to be true...

• A Good Idea: ARPA-E, an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, in order to fund cutting-edge, low-probability/high-payoff energy research. Proposed last year, but still not implemented. (via)

• Tattle-Dust: Hitachi demoed a new RFID tag that measures 0.002 x 0.002 inches, yet has capabilities equivalent to Hitachi's current smallest RFID, which measures a whopping 0.016 inches square. Not yet in production, and a Hitachi rep claims that they are "not imagining" any nefarious uses.


• Upcoming Travel: Post-SXSW, I'm now looking at the UK (London), Switzerland (Lucerne), New York City, and Nebraska. (Sing it with me: "One of these things is not like the others...")


"the sky was the color of a dead television channel"


"Hitachi rep claims that they are "not imagining" any nefarious uses."

I'd venture polonium-210 has just been replaced.

Begin to worry when the sales of RFID scanners are restricted.

(How big is the typical RFID scanner, anyway?)

When I was designing scanning devices back in the mid-90's the smallest scan engines provided to me were roughly a cubic centimeter in size. I did one back then that fit on a finger, so it's easy to recall. I'm unsure if any of them were manufactured.

I've since seen some products that look very much like those designs. Same size. I find that a bit surprising as I'd have expected them to have shrunk rather dramatically.

Best of luck at SXSW!

btw, that engine was driving a laser to scan a traditional barcode; so it wasn't an arphid scanning device. Apologies for not clarifying that (kind of important!).

As to the size of an arphid scanning module, it appears that commercially available engines are now somewhere in the 9mm x 9mm range. That would be both the IC and the antenna. (Link)


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