How could medieval maps be so accurate?

In the 13th century, so-called “portolan maps” appeared that are so accurate, they could be used in navigation today.  But it has been a mystery how they were made and how, given the limits in technology of the time, they could be so accurate.  (This is another example of how the notion that people from other times were unintelligent is just untrue, as in the myth that people in the Middle Ages thought the earth was flat.)  A mathematician has figured out at least part of the answer of why these hand-drawn maps are so good, with even their limitations pointing to a startling sophistication. [Read more...]

From Big Brother to lots of Little Brothers

A review of two books on what today’s technology does to privacy quotes a useful metaphor from one of the authors.  George Orwell warned against “Big Brother,” an all-knowing government that wants to track your every move.  Today the bigger threat is from lots of “Little Brothers,” a multitude of corporations, companies, and online mechanisms that want to track your every move. [Read more...]

The internet’s utopian libertarianism

The Washington Post has a fascinating article about a manifesto written in 1996 entitled  A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.  (Click the link.  It’s worth reading.)  The piece is by John Perry Barlow, who articulated a utopian high-tech libertarianism that still influences the tech industry and internet culture.  His writing lauds the radical freedom and spiritual changes made possible in the cyberworld, and it is also deadset against any kind of big government, with its regulations and controls.

Read the piece by Jacob Silverman, who has written a book on the subject, excerpted and linked after the jump.  Silverman critiques Barlow for his libertarianism and his opposition to government, maintaining that his successful crusade to keep the internet independent of the government simply allowed private corporations to take over and to do what he did not want government to do.  What do you think of this? [Read more...]

Google is investing in letting us live for 500 years

Google is putting some of its gazillions of dollars into a venture capital fund.  Its goal is to fund research that will let us live for 500 years. [Read more...]

Wikipedia sues the National Security Agency

Wikipedia has filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency and the Justice Department, seeking to stop the government’s mass surveillance of the internet. [Read more...]

Hillary Clinton and her e-mails

What’s the big deal, one might ask, about Hillary Clinton using a private account for her e-mails when she was Secretary of State?  Maybe it was a technical violation of a very minor law, but lots of us use work e-mail for personal reasons and personal e-mail for work, so what does it matter?

Well, this was not a matter of using a g-mail or Yahoo account.  Mrs. Clinton had her own server with sophisticated secrecy features, protecting her messages from media and legal requests under the transparency laws.  The normally sympathetic Chris Cillizza explains why this is, in fact, a big deal after the jump. [Read more...]


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