Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Tuesday, March 11, 2003day link 

 The Doughnut Universe
New scientific data is apparently indicating that the universe might finite and shaped like a doughnut, says a New York Times article. If you remember old computer games like Spacewar or Asteroids where, if one moves off the screen in one side, you come back from the other side. That's what would happen if the universe is finite and curved in one or more dimensions. And topologists would argue that finite spaces are more simple and easy to create than infinite spaces, so they're more likely shapes for the universe.
The simplest of these compact universes is something called a 3-torus, a doughnut wrapped in three different dimensions. This object is essentially impossible to visualize: it is the equivalent, in a way, of a cube whose opposite sides are somehow glued together. In two dimensions it works just like the Spacewar screen.

Living in such a universe would be like being inside a hall of mirrors, Dr. Tegmark said. Instead of seeing new stars deeper and deeper in space, you see the same things over and over again as light travels out one side of your cube and back in the other.
The finite universe model would do away with some of the troublesome and depressing aspects of the prevalent Big Bang inflation theory, which seemed to expect that everything would end up being terribly far from everything. Which just doesn't seem right.
[ | 2003-03-11 23:59 | 12 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Barlow on the dangers of DRM
Interview with John Perry Barlow, cyber-rights activist, about the dangerous attempts of introducting Digital Rights Management. DRM is a euphemism for letting big corporations control everything about how you use media, even on your own computer, VCR, phone or whatever. It is being spearheaded by Microsoft, Intel, and the big media companies. Barlow speaks more intelligently and eloquently about these things than anybody I know. It is something that affects everybody, and isn't just a techie thing you don't have to pay attention to if you aren't a techie.
"There are three things at stake. The first is, extending a monopoly to a few large organizations about what people can or cannot know and express. This is really about the control of information and it has the potential to become over time a kind of private totalitarianism. That is not an exaggeration since it has already happened in the United States. The reason that the U.S. is behaving in the completely irrational and dangerous way that it is, is because we have erected private totalitarianism and are suffering a reality distortion field that is as dangerous as the one erupted in Germany in the 1930s. But not being driven by the government, but being driven by the media. Being driven by ourselves. I fear erecting a system which highly advantages a very few corporate channels for human intellectual exchange.

Secondly, I fear that Digital Rights Management today is Political Rights Management tomorrow. That embedding these kinds of technological controls into the very architecture of computing has the capacity to become a form of political control in the not so distant future. Because you're putting at a very basic level surveillance capacity, control over what information may or may not travel, and a whole range of things in the architecture that can be very easily used to suppress dissent.

Third, I am very afraid, that by wrapping a large amount of human knowledge up into bottles that can no longer be opened except at a price, much of it will be wrapped up in crypto bottles that in a very fairly short time cannot be opened even at a price. A huge amount of human creativity will simply be lost for future generations."
Go and support the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the most effecive organization working against this stuff.
[ | 2003-03-11 23:59 | 6 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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