Cray vs Raspberry Pi

In 1978, the Cray 1 supercomputer cost $7 Million, weighed 10,500 pounds and had a 115 kilowatt power supply. It was, by far, the fastest computer in the world. The Raspberry Pi costs around $70 (CPU board, case, power supply, SD card), weighs a few ounces, uses a 5 watt power supply and is more than 4.5 times faster than the Cray 1

(via Slashdot)

Four years ago

It’s four years to the day since a doctor in China privately warned colleagues about pneumonia cases related to coronavirus (which turned out to be COVID). His message was leaked, and went viral on social media, leading to his arrest by authorities for spreading fake news. A few months later he contracted COVID and died, aged 33 (via Kevin Beaumont on Mastodon)

Jimmy the Raven

Random fun film fact: The crow in It’s a Wonderful Life seen in the Building & Loan that Uncle Billy kept as a pet is the same crow that flew on Scarecrow’s arm in The Wizard of Oz whom he was unable to scare. His name was Jimmy and he was a raven who first appeared in You Can’t Take It With You directed by Frank Capra who went on to cast the bird in every subsequent movie he made.

Via John Pinter on Mastodon

Ma Vie en Bling

A poem by Anne Boyer, found via Matt Bogle’s excellent newsletter Pome, which sends used to send you a new poem every day (alas, Matt recently announced the Pome newsletter is on hiatus):

“Did I explain that those days were the days when the people wrote on machines that connected to machines that connected to machines that connected to people who wrote on machines?

Those were the days when we believed in information.

And I was a person in those days, but I did not believe in information. I liked to imagine the interfaces that would make the public private and make the private okay.

Privacy was not an effect, exactly, of confession, which in those days was buying stock in the public company. Those were the days of crude luxury and genteel sorrow. Those were the days I loved to delete.”

Anne Boyer (2015)

Here are the things you clicked on the most in 2023

Hi everyone! Mathew Ingram here. Before we begin, I realize that the “year-end round-up” newsletter has become so ubiquitous that you may have no room in your life for another one. But the round-up has become a time-tested tradition in the media business for some pretty compelling reasons – for one, the period between Christmas and New Year’s is kind of a dead zone, and round-ups are relatively easy to pull together when you are a) understaffed, b) tired c) hungover d) lacking in motivation or e) all of the above.

I am not immune to these kinds of pressures myself, I confess. But on top of that, I also find it kind of fascinating to look at which of the links I include here get the most clicks. That’s why when I started this newsletter, I also installed an open-source link-shortening service called Yourls, which lets me create custom links for the articles I share. It comes with built-in analytics that track the clicks on those links, in much the same way Twitter and other services do. I don’t really do anything with this information – I don’t sell it to advertisers, or pick different links to include based on whether they might get more clicks (at least not consciously). I just find it interesting! And maybe you will too.

This sample is obviously weighted with respect to time, in that the links I included in early versions of the newsletter have had time to accumulate more clicks. But I’m not sure how many people go back and look at previous versions of the newsletter, so it’s hard to say how much of an impact that has. Anyway, without further ado, here are the 10 most popular links since January, 2023:

Note: This is a version of my personal newsletter, which I send out via Ghost, the open-source publishing platform. You can see other issues and sign up here.

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He created the personal computer, then walked away

From Gareth Edwards at Every: “In September 1974, Ed Roberts was sitting at the bank in a foreclosure meeting. His once-profitable calculator company, Micro Instrument and Telemetry Systems, was on the verge of bankruptcy. But Roberts was soliciting a $65,000 loan. Not to spend on calculators, he explained to the bank, but for something much more important, something nobody had done before. He planned to build an affordable personal computer. This is the story of the man who created the personal computer, launched the careers of Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak, and decided—at the height of his success—to walk away, buy a horse farm, and go back to school to become a doctor.”

There’s a sunken galleon worth $20 billion, but no one can agree on who owns it

Sunken Galleon | Revelation Online - Official Website

From Remy Tumin for the NYT: “When the San José made its final voyage from Seville, Spain, to the Americas in 1706, the Spanish galleon was considered to be one of the most complex machines ever built. Then it was destroyed in an ambush by the British in 1708 in what is known as Wager’s Action, sinking off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia, with a haul of gold, jewels and other goods that could be worth upward of $20 billion today. Some experts say that number is inflated. But the myth built around the San José has prompted the Colombian government to keep its exact location a secret as a matter of national security.”

Note: This is a version of my personal newsletter, which I send out via Ghost, the open-source publishing platform. You can see other issues and sign up here.

Continue reading “He created the personal computer, then walked away”

Inside the mind of a bee — do they think? Are they conscious?

Scott Alexander, a psychologist who blogs at Astral Codex Ten, writes about a book that dives into the question of whether bees can think or not:

“Lars Chittka, who wrote The Mind of a Bee, got thinking. He and his lab decided to build fake robotic crab spiders, and had them really robotically attack bumble bees when they visited flowers. Not only did the bees have a bad time, their behavioural patterns totally changed. They began to approach the flowers differently. They began inspecting flowers via quick scanning flights before landing on them, and would occasionally reject flowers even if there was no crab spider present. They seemed more nervous. If you want to see if humans are optimistic or pessimistic, you point at a glass of water that is halfway filled and ask them to describe it. Similarly, you can do the glass half-full versus half-empty test on bees, where you give them an ambiguous stimulus – it might be sucrose, which bees love, or it might be quinine, which they hate – and see if they want it. 

If they want it, they’re likely a happy-go-lucky bee with nothing on their mind. If you simulate the bee being attacked by a predator right before this test, they are much less likely to fly to the solution and much more likely to fly into the container labelled ‘Therabee’. Does that mean bees feel emotions? If they feel emotions, would that mean bees have conscious states? Or are these all just instinctive responses? Bees exist in that great hinterland of consciousness – the valley where we throw all manner of creatures and living beings whose experiences we remain fundamentally uncertain about. Some readers will likely enter the book believing that bees do not have conscious experiences, and Lars Chittka does a good job disabusing these people of their certainty in this belief, if not the belief altogether.”

There’s a lot more to it than this small sample, and it’s all fascinating — why bees build hexagonal honeycombs (even in space with zero gravity), why they do the waggle dance to deliver information about the angle of the sun even though it doesn’t improve their ability to gather nectar, and much more.

How Leonardo da Vinci was inspired to create his most famous drawing, Vitruvian Man

From Sheehan Quirke, also known as The Cultural Tutor, comes the story of Vitruvius, one of the most important architects in history:

“What makes Vitruvius so important? During his retirement he wrote something called De Architectura, a comprehensive treatise — part history, part guide — on Greek and Roman architecture. This book is the only surviving architectural treatise from the ancient world. That is to say: without this book we would know far less about Classical Architecture, and would have had to reverse engineer our knowledge of the Five Orders and of Proportion by analysing ancient ruins. Vitruvius’ detailed description of human proportions, which he claimed to be the basis of Classical Architecture, inspired one of history’s most famous drawings: Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.”

He wrote: “For the human body is so designed by nature that the face, from the chin to the top of the forehead and the lowest roots of the hair, is a tenth part of the whole height; the open hand from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger is just the same; the head from the chin to the crown is an eighth, and with the neck and shoulder from the top of the breast to the lowest roots of the hair is a sixth; from the middle of the breast to the summit of the crown is a fourth. If we take the height of the face itself, the dis­tance from the bottom of the chin to the under side of the nostrils is one third of it; the nose from the under side of the nostrils to a line between the eyebrows is the same; from there to the lowest roots of the hair is also a third, comprising the forehead. The length of the foot is one sixth of the height of the body; of the forearm, one fourth; and the breadth of the breast is also one fourth.”