July 2016

Anticipating Obsolescence

Over at the Atlantic are a few articles suggesting that future cities may no longer have street signs. As the argument goes, driverless automated cars are going to depend on high-precision maps. Such maps will be incredibly valuable to companies like Google and Apple, who may no longer be willing to give them away for free to consumers.

Are sports just games?

As the Rio Summer Olympics approach, the subject of sport, excellence, and cheating returns to the fore.  With it comes discussion of what cheating in sport is and why it is bad, or not.

In search of wrongdoing

One important means for enforcing rules of conduct is to allow police to search for evidence of violations.  Search can take many forms, as recent examples illustrate.

In the upcoming Rio Summer Olympics, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will be searching for evidence of gene doping.  Gene doping is the insertion of genes into a body's cells in order to modify their behavior for the purpose of enhancement (as opposed to gene therapy, which is done to restore health).  

Brain stimulators for Olympians?

With the approach of the Rio Summer Olympics, the role of technology in sport comes naturally to the fore.  Many of those questions center on issues of enhancement.

New loop for straphangers

The aptly named Product Design Studio of Japan has improved on an old piece of design, namely the hand loop grasped by straphangers on public transit.  

The classic handle for someone standing on the bus, streetcar, or subway was a loop of plastic hanging from a bar overhead.  This solution helps to prevent people from being knocked over by jolts experienced during normal operation but is not very comfortable to hold onto.  

Pokémon Goes on

Pokémon Go is hard to avoid.  Players wander the highways and byways, and the halls of academe, collecting Squirtles and the like.  

Like any broadly adopted technological phenomenon, the game comes with trade-offs, that is, features that work to the advantage of some and disadvantage of others.  As ever, opinions may differ about what exactly those are.

Adios, VCR!

The New York Times reports that Funai Electric of Japan will cease production of its VHS VCR lines this August.  After that, there will be no more producers of this venerable technology.

VCRs were first produced in the mid-1950s and cost $50,000 each!  The first consumer versions were marketed in the 1960s but serious household use got underway in the mid-1970s with the so-called Betamax-VHS format war.  

Scarborough gets a subway stop

Toronto's City Council recently approved a plan to construct a subway extension in Scarborough, in the eastern region of the city.  The decision riles many urban planners because it provides only one stop at a cost likely well in excess of $3 billion.

An alternative plan calling for construction of light rail transit (LRT) through the same section of the city would provide more stops, serve more people, and cost significantly less.  

Is Myriad hoarding patient data?

Myriad Genetics is perhaps best known for its ultimately failed defence of its patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes associated with elevated risk of breast cancer.  

A new article describes another way in which the company has offended some cancer patients, namely by keeping details of their test results a proprietary secret.  

More Pokémon news

It may not surprise you to learn that the Pokémon Go phenomenon continues to grow.  As such, here are a few more items that may interest readers of this blog:

More retro gaming news

As a follow-up to Cam's post yesterday about the return (revenge?) of Pokemon, here's a few other bits of retro video game news.

Pokemon conquers Waterloo?

You cannot swing a virtual cat on the 'net without hitting a news item about the appearance of Pokémons everywhere.  The little Nintendo critters from the 1990s are back amongst us, visible only to those who have downloaded the Pokémon Go app on their smartphones.

The app allows users to view their surroundings but inserts pocket monsters where it sees fit.  Players can ambulate through their surroundings spotting and collecting them, or something like that.

Stories about the app abound.  Here are a few:

Professor Modafinil

Adderall and Ritalin have been used for some time in academia by some students and faculty seeking to get ahead in their occupations.  Both drugs were developed to treat people with conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder.

An attractive electrical substation?

The Seattle City Light utility is preparing installation of the Denny Street substation.  Why is this news?  Because the new substation does not look like a substation.  Behold!

(Courtesy NBBJ Architects.)

DNN: 7 July 2016

Perhaps the earliest suggestion that consumer drones were about to take off in a big way was the "tacocopter", the little drone brings people tacos from above.  The idea exploded onto the Web in 2012 with the product launch.

The machine readable roadway

The death of Johsua Brown in a collision between his Tesla and a big rig has led to some reflections on automation and trust.  However, it also raises issues about in what ways our world is, or should be, readable by machines.

Death in Tesla using autopilot function

On 7 May 2016, Joshua Brown was killed as his Tesla drove underneath an 18-wheeler on US 27-A highway in Florida.  The truck was making a left turn from the westbound lanes across the eastbound lanes when the eastbound Tesla Model S struck it.  

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