Sunday, July 31, 2011

Don't Be Such a Scientist

A friend recently directed me to a book about writing and communicating science called Don't Be Such a Scientist by Randy Olson. Very interesting, hopefully I've followed much of its advice before reading it. I've always believed that you have to get people interested and excited about a subject before you can start informing them about it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Not everything computers do is good

I've tended to post a rosy view of the impact of computers on society, yet we all know that people can do bad things with computers: design bombs, hack into private data, steal credit cards, even organise atrocities. I'm not unaware of this and my book's penultimate chapter will focus on the darkside of computing: hacking, spam and cyberwar.
The recent shocking events in Norway possibly illustrate how people can become isolated and dangerously deranged through their use of the web. This excellent article in the Guardian newspaper discusses how online anonymity and the effect of the filter bubble can serve to exacerbate a person's tendency towards extreme beliefs. We all hope few people act on these beliefs.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Steve Jobs Keynote

I was watching Steve Job's keynote speech at Macworld in 2007 yesterday researching for the book. This was the public unveiling of the iPhone. It was really interesting to compare what he said then with what happened with regard to the iPhone and to listen to the audiences' amazed reaction to demos of things like scrolling and the pinch and zoom control on the iPhone. At one point Jobs quotes Alan Kay, who used to work at Xerox Parc and was responsible (with others) for the development of the original GUI that was the inspiration for the Macintosh, Kay said “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.” It seems like Jobs certainly took that advice to heart. I recommend watching this keynote if you've got a spare hour or so. You can find it in the iTunes store (free), search for "Apple keynote" and I expect it's on YouTube.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My mother at Bletchley Park

My 83 year old mother back in England just sent me a postcard from Bletchley Park, the famous "Station X" where Alan Turing (and many others) worked during WWII to crack the German Enigma machine codes. I'll be visiting there in September as a tour from a conference I'm attending in London - looking forward to it.