Bamboo cultivation can be a metaphor for life:
sometimes you have to pay attention, others you have to leave it alone to thrive by itself.
Bamboo, Taijiquan, living in Pittsburgh, part of the human family.

Friday, January 18, 2008

phyllostachys 80: Minute Tech 65 Show Transcript

65 - How do you organize information? Computers.

Good morning, this is Alex Landefeld with episode 65 of the Minute Tech podcast -

coming to you for Friday, January 18th, 2008

On this tech podcast about the broader meanings of technology, we'll mention:

- Batteries Get A Charge Out of Silicon Nano-wires;
- How do you organize information? Computers.
- and, Stephen Hawking's Popular Book Moves Forward in Time.


Minute Tech podcast is brought to you by:

Pittsburgh-native Larry Tolbert, teaching taiji and qi gong. Having studied with Chen, Yang and Wu stylists, as well as Shaolin Wushu & Capoeira meistre's, sifu Larry Moves with the motion of the planet.
E-mail leonardtolbert-[at]-hotmail-[dot]-com for more info.


Ravelings by Carol. Pittsburgh-region classes in needle-craft - encompassing crochet, embroidery, knitting, & tatting, as well as an associated lace collection. For more information, contact Carol at carolb207-[at]-alltel-[dot]-net.

Tech News:

Using silicon nano-wires as the anodes in new batteries instead of graphite, Stanford University researchers have been able to give a tenfold increase to average battery life. Alex Serpo, for CNet reports that Stanford's Yi Cui and colleagues have found that their new silicon nano-wires will swell up to 4 times their original size when "charged" with lithium ions, with out fracturing like earlier generations of silicon nano-wires. Graphite apparently, perhaps due to it's tightly bound carbon crystal lattice, restricts the amount of energy that can be stored. With this new discovery, the MacBook Air could potentially go from 5 hours of battery life to 40 or 50 hours of battery life. I suppose this could be extended to the automotive industry as well, propelling the world further out of the clutches of fossil fuels.

A tenfold improvement in battery life?

Now, if you think that the age of discovery has ended, and just about all the new things to be discovered have been, from silicon nano-wires to string theory, from the iPod to Data's emotion chip...I submit that you're just plain wrong. As we scale our ability to observe, save data, economize on energy and teach more and more of our children to think for themselves, we constantly discover new things throughout all the facets of life. Take asteroids, for example. A Slashdot posting tells us of a group of three Racine, Wisconsin high school sophomores who, using a remotely controlled astronomical telescope in New Mexico, compared a group of photos snapped of the night sky two nights in a row, and have discovered what may come to be named "2008 AZ28". This asteroid, with about a 5-year solar orbit, is part of a class of celestial objects that, giving no light of their own, are about 10,000 times fainter than anything you can see in the night sky with your un-aided eyes. Telescopes snap photos of various parts of the night sky, and researchers, including high school students, compare successive photos to see if any movement can be detected in objects, and, if so, what the moving objects might be.

Tech Question:

How do you organize information? Computers.
For some 50 or 60 years, humans have been moving beyond manual and mechanical methods of calculating numbers to using digital electronic machines called "computers" to compute various mathematical problems. Little did mathematicians know that raw number computation would give rise to storing vast amounts of human knowledge in binary format.

Now, I'm not talking here about re-creation of humanities published works on such sites as or Google's book project, but rather the constant creation of computer programs which humans have been producing for decades to enable the storage of those books, to ease the use of the computers themselves, and to ease the ways in which programmers control the internal circuitry of the computers. These "programs" are basically human-language methods for translating human ideas into binary bits that machines making billions of on-off on-off on-off switches per minute can understand.

When you hear of a computer operating system such as Windows 95, Linux, OS 2, BSD, Vista or Leopard consisting of millions of lines of code...this code is essentially all originally hand-typed information that humans have used to create usable environments within the realm of computers. These usable environments are created, therefore, by text-based information that humans have converted from human-language to computable binary (or assembly) language.

This moves way beyond the reason for books. Books store information that humans have designed to be stored in books. That's the sole purpose of books, magazines, pamphlets, etc. -- to store information that humans don't want to commit to memory and also want to disseminate to a broad swath of their contemporary fellow humans. Although this books stored information may be said to store all sorts of different worlds within them...these worlds only come to life when humans read the books (listen, etc.) and translate the words or symbols into mental images.

In computers, however, the stored information is already embodied as images...this therefore is the logical next level to which human information storage must push: storing immense amounts of computer-world-building coded text to generate images which will transmit all sorts of information to humans, other computers and perhaps off-world entities.

The next time you use any sort of computing device to access your bank account, read a copy of Plato's Dialogues or write down your thoughts for the day in 140 characters or less...take a moment to think about the humans who have come before you, writing the underlying code that allows you to interact with that computer. Where can this thought take you? Where will it take all of us?

Podcasting - Blogging News:

I've recently been listening to an unabridged audio book of Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow's A Briefer History of Time, a 2005 update to Hawking's 1985 blockbuster book about physics, quantum theory, black holes and time. This new book takes on the historical ideas of the original book, but packages them with the understanding of newer theories, such as string theory. String theory is a new attempt to move closer to the battle that Albert Einstein had been seek to find a "unified theory" in which we could see how his General Relativity, which explains the macro universe, can sync with Quantum Mechanics, which explains the atomic/sub-atomic universe. The forces which hold the parts of an atom together do not seem to coincide with the forces which hold a solar system or a galaxy together. Also, the sci-fi attempt to use faster-than-light travel and "transporter" technology is intriguing...but how close does it come to reality? A Briefer History of Time brings us far closer to understanding all this stuff. Why is this important? Without Quantum Mechanics, we wouldn't have nuclear energy and microprocessing computers. Without a unified theory, we won't have a more complete understanding of the universe in which we live.

That's all for today on Minute Tech podcast.
you can reach me at -
and my blog is at

"Move with the motion of the planet - move with Taiji"

- Batteries Get A Charge Out of Silicon Nano-wires;
- How do you organize information? Computers.
- and, Stephen Hawking's Popular Book Moves Forward in Time.

Go to the Minute Tech iWeb page to subscribe or listen to this podcast: Minute Tech.

Interstitial music by Apple & Bre Pettis

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Twitter: alex_landefeld