~ Archive for fly-by-wire ~

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Which is better, a ride on an Airbus A320
or one on a 757? I’ll be doggoned if I don’t know the answer now, for all kinds of interpretations of better.

BBC Backstage


…not what you think.

Unverified Research, Part I : Mass Hysteria


I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about trust recently, ever since
getting involved in a heated debate two years ago about the efficacy
usefulness of information generated by collections of anonymous people.

My first reaction was, that all information
is generated this way.  No matter how well you know someone else,
it is never possible to truly shake the shackles of anonymity. 
Some people look to Wikipedia et al and assume original sin, then write
about the mediating
advantages of letting people add content directly – rather than
requiring a ‘licensed practitioner’ to go out and extract and parse
such content.  I figure all sources are tainted;  I’d like to
highlight the kind of
unverifiable and unsourced reporting that passes as research today…
starting with the mainstream media and academia.

I. MSM : Mass Hysteria and the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic of 1962

(a) Here is a credulous report, by the Chicago Tribune, of research done by academic Christian F. Hempelmann (who received his PhD in linguistics from Purdue around that time) :    reprint via a mailing list

There is no original data; it is hypothesized that none
can be obtained. When the issue comes up in earnest, the author
mentions he may try to go interview people who were there, but he does
not seem to feel that the lack of such evidence should prevent him from
declaring the event to have been mass hysteria, nor from going off on
tangents about the physiological limits of laughing. Having myself been
incapacitated by laughter for slightly more than “a minute” (an upper
limit he places on one’s ability to laugh, adding elsewhere that one
can only sustain laughter for 20 seconds), I find myself wondering
which if any of the statements in that article could be backed up by
good research.

(For reference, the Wikipedia article
on the same subject is slightly more skeptical, but has no further
information on the subject. It repeats the unsourced claim that there is no good information on this event.)

(b) Here is a fictional story
based on the same event. Equally informative, if not moreso… equally
unsourced. I would prefer a well-sourced historical narrative,
fictional or not…

now: the longest night


You’d think that just getting through long weeks was the hard part. But then there’s the introspection. I’m planning to be up all night bringing you all news from today’s Signal or Noise conference at HLS, transcripts from sessions of the same, translations of your own personal whuffie stacks, and new Current Events. I hope you appreciate this.

Wikimania goes Global


Wikimania opens its web doors a crack, with translations of the site progressing in six languages. The conference is going to be *amazing*. I can’t wait. And I can’t wait to tell you all about some of the fabulous speakers we’re going to have…

Nahuatl as Written makes my week


iuhqui ce loca omocuep cenca quitepexihuia” : like a crazy woman, throwing her soul over a cliff, into the abyss

This is an excerpt from a petition submitted by Leonor Magdalena to the governor of Coyoacan in 1613, in which he discusses the insanity of his widowed daughter-in-law. Provided in Nahuatl with English gloss by James Lockhart, Professor Emeritus of History at UCLA, in his lovely work “Nahuatl as Written“.

What would make my month, would be getting access to a digital copy of the entire encyclopedia of Aztec society that one of the friars made while there was still a large body of living elders who had lived much of their lives under the Aztec empire — Fray Sahagun’s 12-volume Florentine Codex.

Codex Florentine will be a juggernaut next year…



They say you can never know somebody perfectly, not even yourself.  It can make you feel helpless in the face of the gaping maw of the eternal Void.  There are days when the pointlessness of life hangs from your neck like a bronzed baby, and even a second helping of scallion pancakes seems unappetizing.  And yet redundant lightweight wireless devices secreted about your person, with touchscreens and zpf keyboards, interconnected via infrared and thumb-sized harddrives, can make these worries disappear for a few fleeting hours. 

Posting from a much beloved X40,


EB’s 2-Track Mind? A Blast from the Past


A few years ago, Freerepublic posted a note about the Encyclopedia Britannica, with Dale Hoiberg speaking about its most promising content channels, and how it intends to refresh its online content quickly with two-track workflow. I’m dying to know whether they’ve stuck with it for the past three years, and how their workflow has changed.

The material online, moreover, is constantly updated. Britannica’s editor, a Sinologist named Dale Hoiberg, says it has instituted a two-track workflow: one fast, for work that needs to be turned around quickly (for an impeachment, for instance); and another slower, for the traditional work of researching, writing and editing the encyclopedia’s entries.

Ms. Schroeder predicts that reference publishers will pursue “such a variety of different business models, it will make your head swim.”

(from the March 2, 2001 edition of freerepublic.com, a mere six weeks after Wikipedia’s founding)

Including, I suppose, the “100% volunteer” business model.

Collaborative news, half-neutered


A current events and a related “In the News” section have existed on Wikipedia for a long time. They are among the more popular sections of the site, but there is some controversy about what kind of news notes are appropriate for the encyclopedia. Is a news update every day okay for a major story? Clearly newsflashes should also update the relevant article. How about local news? Is an event which attracts attention today but won’t be encyclopedic tomorrow (predictions about where a hurricane will hit ground, rumours of a big scandal which may be substanceless) worth its own paragraph? Its own article?

Right now, the only place for newsblurbs is in a long list on the current events page, which is later archived by month. A new Wikimedia project proposes to change all of that : Wikinews, a year or more in the conception (and still uncertain of the breadth of its mission), is attracting active discussion again, and may get its own domain this month. It aims to be a place to develop both news summaries and the occasional original report. This last bit sticks in the old craw; questions of neutralization of extreme points of view and hysteria, categorization, archiving, verification, and finalization of verified reports remain to be addressed later… but clearly much of the excitement over the project stems from the lure of this small proportion of its content.

Trickster’s time, in suborbit


Flying slightly under the radar recently was a groundshaking achievement in the aviation community — the first private flight
to pass the 100km crystal ceiling separating “space” from our atmosphere. Scaled Composites launched their baby, SpaceShipOne, from 15km up, at which point it climbed to 100km before returning and gliding back to the newly-appointed Mojave Spaceport. A try from the same port at claiming the $10M X-Prize is expected in late September.
Here’s a fairly long video of the flight from a mounted camera.

Patti Grace Smith, the Federal Aviation Administration’s associate administrator for commercial space transportation, awarded [Mike] Melvill the first astronaut wings ever granted by the FAA and the Department of Transportation. — Alan Boyle reporting on the aftermath of SpaceShipOne’s first flight to 100km

Tricksters come in every shape and size, and at every altitude.
It’s the ones which act like normal, risk-averse people that worry
me; are they so unrealistic they will be shocked and amazed at the
first disaster? Only if it happens to them? Is it a marketing ploy well before its time? TGV comes to mind: Michelle-B can be ready to fly again in a few hours. The small ground crew inspects and services the vehicle for rapid turnaround… [she] allows any person or organization to participate in space activities with minimal cost and maximum utility. Our simple mini van will do for aerospace what the PC did for computing.

Oh, and then what? It’s fun to evoke change, to be the punctuation in the equilibrium. It’s also fun to pretend we have, even collectively, free will. Suggestions welcome.

“This is going to be disruptive innovation, and disruptors live on small margins. If this was going to make a phenomenal return, Boeing would be doing this.” — TGV’s Pat Bahn, on revolutionizing spaceflight with commodity suborbital RLVs

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