Let my dataset change your mindset

Hans Rosling, a physician and professor of global health from Sweden recently gave a talk at the US State Dept. entitled Let My Dataset change your midset illustrated by the free software he and his son developed called Gapminder. He explains how the data (which he thanks the US for compiling and releasing so generously) shows a convergence around the world (ala Tom Friedman’s Flat Earth) and warns us that some problems are more complex than a simple static chart or graph will reveal. Only by looking at (good) data with an analysis tool like this can you begin to see what is really happening. For instance, he shows that the HIV crisis in Africa isn’t really an “African” problem, as there are many very poor countries in Africa that have done a good job of reducing the problem, where other richer African countries have done a terrible job. Solutions to global health problems need to be tailored to the individual case.
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True tempered guitar necks

Last year I posted here about why its not really possible to get a guitar in tune. I heard from a friend today about tru-temperment fret boards which may actually make it possible! Some anecdotal posts in guitar forums indicate that you can play barre chords all the way up the neck with one of these and remain perfectly in tune.

In (somewhat related) readings during lunch today I also found this site and I remembered another conversation with some friends recently about the difference between a 440Hz A and 442Hz A. Can you hear the difference between 440Hz and 442Hz?

Even if you can’t discriminate the difference between them when playing them one after another, if you play them simultaneously you’ll notice the interference pattern (listen for a waa waa waa sound). This is another way I was taught to tune an electric guitar – while playing a harmonic note on the 12th fret of the lower string, play a harmonic on the 5th fret of the higher string and listen for the interference pattern and tune until the waa waa slows down and disappears. (I’m not at a guitar right now and while my fingers would remember the right frets, my mind doesn’t so if thats not right please correct).

Guessing a social security number to steal your identity

As I have long maintained, it is quite foolish of folks to post accurate details about themselves on social networking sites because its like a shopping list for identity thieves. A recent study at Carnegie Mellon which will be released at an upcoming black hat conference shows how identity thieves might be able to guess your social security number given only your date and place of birth.
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Code cracked after 200 years

The Wall Street Journal has a story about a coded message that was sent to Thomas Jefferson by his friend Robert Patterson, a mathematics professor at the University of Pennsylvania which apparently remained unsolved until 2007 when Dr. Lawren Smithline a professional cryptologist turned his attention (and the power of a computer) to the problem.

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Internet as classroom

With just a personal computer and the recurring price of a broadband internet connection you can sit in on a vast number of lectures by scholars from MIT, Princeton, Berkeley, or Yale (though you won’t get course credit for doing so). With the videos and course materials made available by these schools FOR FREE over the internet, given enough time and motivation anyone can attend an Ivy League school – virtually. Even if sitting through 14 hours of Calculus lectures isn’t your idea of a good time, there are a vast number of excellent one-off lectures available on a whole range of topics, most by noted scientists in their fields. I watched a great talk about the current status of solar energy technologies the other night, and another one recently on the science of aging. College lectures and talks are not the kind of thing you will find anywhere among the 140 or so typical channels of garbage on television – but they are out there on the internet, for instant on-demand viewing for inquisitive folks.
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