Technological Antiques

Ever since Paul Virilio coined the term ‘dromology’ (the study of speed) in the late 1970s, searching for the meaning of ever speedier change has become a respectable path of scholarship. “Everywhere life seems to speeding up: we talk of fast food and speed dating. But what does the phenomenon of social acceleration really entail?”, Hartmut Rosa asks in a collection of essays called High Speed Society.

Last year, French journalist Jean-Christophe Laurence took an interesting approach. He showed primary school kids old technology like floppy discs, a 1st generation Game Boy, a mouse from the 1980s or a telephone with dial plate and filmed their reactions. In the end he asks: “Not even 30 years old… And already antiques?”

In my opinion, the fact that mankind renews its tools within less than a generation should affect the way we teach and learn in schools. It becomes more and more important to teach our kids how to cope with change. Watching these kids discovering the meaning of stuff unknown to them, comparing it to things they know and finally giving it a meaning made me happy. Kids are explorers, and if school doesn’t destroy their curiosity and even helps them to develop such skills, “technological antiques” won’t be a problem at all.

(via rferl.org)

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Welcome To The Moon!

Nasa Logo
The Apollo 11 space flight landed the first humans on Earth’s Moon on July 20 1969. The mission, carried out by the United States, is considered a major accomplishment in human history. Images of the first manned lunar landing were received and broadcast to 600 million people on Earth. Apollo 11 was a victory for the U.S. in the Cold War Space Race with the Soviet Union who, in 1961, had sent Yuri Gagarin to the Cosmos to become the first human in outer space and the first to orbit the Earth.

From time to time people complain about “the frustrating gap between NASA’s deeply inspirational work and the toothless official communication about it” as Maria Popova put it recently. Fortunately there are some people out there who come up with creative ideas to close the gap.

To celebrate the 40 year aniversary of the first moon landing Google released Google Moon. Now, a New Zealand based company came up with the idea to use these images to play around and land your own Eagle. This is especially exiting, as during the final landing phase of Apollo 11 it became apparent that the computer was steering directly towards a crater and big boulders. Neil Armstrong took manual control and landed the Eagle safely with only seconds of fuel to spare.

Now you can “Take control” and experience those final seconds of the landing phase. Land the Eagle vertically and softly on the target. Use arrow keys to tilt and spacebar to ignite the engine. Land on the target before you run out of fuel. An amazing game! Click on one of the images to start.


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Forget about Learning Vocabulary?

Some people argue that the latest developments in real-time translation might “change everything”. That was the case when Word Lens, an augmented reality app for the iPhone, came out a few months ago. And the comments on the new Google Translate conversation mode sound quite the same. But what does it mean? No more foreign language skills at all? Surely not. But given the latest developments in statistical translation technologies, mobile computing and cloud-sourcing, there are already some handy prototype solutions to facilitate your next trip abroad.

If only you keep in mind that “the only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself”. To get  an idea of how good (or bad) statistical translation methods work nowadays, after huge progress made in the last few years, I took the Golden Rule and translated it into different languages. The original idea is usually cloud-transformed into complete nonsense. Let’s give it a try with an English-German there-and-back translation:

  • Google Translate: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. -> Man sollte andere behandeln, wie man möchte, um sich andere zu behandeln. -> You should treat others as you would like to get another treat.
  • Yahoo! Babelfish: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. -> Ein sollte andere behandeln, da man möchte, dass andere sich behandeln. -> Other one should treat, since one would like that others treat themselves.

In my opinion, nothing changes for the moment. You still have to double check your machine translations with your vocabulary list and your own linguistic and social skills. Your hands and gestures might stay the best “conversation mode” for a long time compared to any cloud-sourced translation. It’s just like with instant coffee: never as good as the real one.

Enjoy the short presentations, they are nonetheless impressing and entertaining!

1 Google Android App for Real-Time Translation

“Please keep in mind this is experimental, so it may or may not work perfectly.”

2 On-the-fly video translations with Word Lens

Word Lens translates printed words from one language to another using the video camera on your iPhone.

3 Google Goggles Translation Feature

An experimental demo of Google Goggles that incorporates translation and optical character recognition.

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The Facebook World Map

And said Mark let there be light, and there was light. Besides for China and the former Soviet Union. But they still have Qzone (200.000.000+ users) and Vkontakte (100.000.000+ users), small torch lights compared to the Facebook sun (500.000.000+ users). However, if we believe the official facebook notes this is what interns like Paul Butler do while working with the data infrastructure engineering team: visualizing friendships! Click on the picture to get a high resolution image of this impressing world map (3.8 MB).

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