Atom Wave: May 2009

Atom Wave

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wolfram Alpha vs. Google

Hello old friend, we meet again. What I’m about to tell you could very well be the happiest moment of your life, assuming that you’re a geek. Since you are already reading this, it is almost a forgone conclusion.
Google is so last century. While still useful, I’d bet that you wouldn’t see anything like it aboard the Enterprise when she sets sail for the stars in a century or two. The future is now, and it’s Wolfram Alpha.
Wolfram was founded by the British physics and mathematics prodigy Stephen Wolfram, who at 20 made an important contribution to particle physics and strong interactions while teaching at Caltech University in Los Angeles.
Instead of the long mind-numbing search lists of Google, Wolfram Alpha embraces a more structured approach of merging data sets onto a single page, much like an encyclopedia. Say that you are interested in California. Instead of receiving a long list of sites relevant to California, you get all the statistics relevant to the state. Wolfram Alpha will even solve math problems, just plug in the formula. This great strength of Wolfram also its great weakness, it is useless for general searches. If Google is a machine gun of search engines, this is the guided missile. You still need to tell it where to go.
I sure don’t expect Google to disappear anytime soon, it still has its uses in basic search, gmail, and maps. Wolfram represents an important contribution to this, and in many ways complements Google. It only remains to be seen if Alpha will remain independent or be absorbed by Google.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

American Medical Gestapo

Sorry folks, the Gestapo is here. You know, I really hate to break it to you, but America is no longer the land of the free! You only need to look as close as Sleepy Eye Minnesota to see how far we have come.
Let me introduce you to Brian and Colleen Hauser. They are farmers from southern Minnesota. Early this year in Sleepy Eye, 13 year old Brian Hauser went to see his family doctor complaining of shortness of breath. After his visit, he was referred to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, where he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and assigned six rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. Shortly after receiving just one chemo treatment, he gets very sick. Seeking a second opinion, Colleen takes him to the University of Minnesota hospital and the Mayo Clinic where she receives the same orders. Then in April, doctors inform Brown County officials that Colleen is neglecting Brian by not sending him for more treatments. Fast forward to May, and the judge orders Brian to resume chemo treatment. Brian and Colleen promise defiance, instead opting to practice alternative treatments in alignment with their religion. Today they are fugitives, likely hiding out under the radar in southern California or Mexico.
I say Godspeed to these unsung heroes! Regardless as to your views of cancer treatment, there is something sacred about your own life and body. If you can’t even control your own medical treatment, than is America really the land of the free anymore? When did we decide that some frakin judge and doctor know better for you than you do? How much longer will it be before you don’t have any choice at all? Show up for the treatment or report to jail. I sincerely hope that they never find them.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Star Trek (2009) and the Attack of the Star Wars Clone

I swear to you, if you haven’t seen the new Star Trek movie; then please for the loves of God don’t. I don’t mean to be crude, but Abrams raped Star Trek. It was a Star Trek movie sure, but only in name. George Lucas might recognize the plot much better, with its Star Wars clones.
To begin, the character re-imaginations were comical. While I do recall the original Kirk to be insubordinate on occasion, the new one was on acid. Starfleet must have been on acid for giving him the keys to the new Enterprise. That whole thing about cadets being the only people qualified to protect Earth, is very cheesy. Chekhov’s seemed to be mocking the original, with his forced Russian accent. Scotty just looked to be more absent-minded then the original, and McCoy just strangely caring. I will give it to them; they nailed Spock. As for Nero, he was pathetic excuse for a villain, the cliché man in need of revenge.
The plot is complete nonsense; with a madmen in a Death Star like starship seeking revenge for something that hasn’t happened yet. His weapon of choice is red matter, which will ignite into a black hole singularity. It is total bullshit, by any stretch of science and even by Star Trek standards. Abrams also ignored all earlier Star Trek prologue; by making the Enterprise new, destroying the Vulcan home world, and pushing up the introduction of the Klingons. Even by Star Trek standards, their military tactics sucked. Fire all weapons! Did a junior high kid write this script? No offense intended the under high school club.
Finally, where was the philosophy? Every movie minus one written to date had some point to it. You can be more than your past (Nemesis). Revenge can drive you to your death (First Contact). This movie had neither, or any. It was just action all the way, which is fine if that is what your in to.