Thursday, February 16, 2006

Is the bell (curve) tolling for "light bulbs"?

Edmund Scientific's Optical boys might have developed the much-wished-for halogen/HID-killer LED. [Press release...]

Update 2006.02.16: some info on how they claim to do it.

Here we go. If this stuff is actually manufacturable, this is the knee of the incandescent lamp curve... and not far from the knee for fluorescents, too. W00t.

I've already seen merch in the local hardware store that has labeling implicitly apologizing for not being LED. Is this buggywhip time for incandescent lamps? Will they be laboratory items only soon? If you need a continuous spectrum they're hard to beat, so they'll still be used in theater and film (production and presentation, both). Apart from that...? People worried about surviving EMP: vacuum tubes resulted from the Edison effect observed in incandescent lamps. And that's about all I can think of.

I really want someone to write the history of this project. Not just the Edmund breakthrough, although that might make a book in itself, I don't know. The White LED was effectively unthinkable about 30 years ago, AFAIK. But I'd love to find out I was wrong.

I am sure there are studies in gumptionology to be found in this history, at least as much so as in, say, Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine, q.v.

The biggest lesson in gumptionology I got from that book was a bit like the line from the movie Blade Runner: "The candle that burns twice as bright lasts half as long." There is a famous burnout quote mentioned at the bottom of the article linked immediately above. What price gumption (especially in Flow Zero)? Coupland's Microserfs talks about the seductive qualities of being "Version 1.0" -- of doing something groundbreaking.

Groundbreaking can be mindbreaking. No one else can tell you whether that was worth it. And grinding and pumping out 40-hour days is no guarantee of "success" -- what exactly is that, again?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

"I Have a Dream", Part N+1

As my dear departed friend Dan Niemi would say: OUT-STANDING!

Of course this could turn out badly. Of course there are huge potential stumbling blocks--read the whole linked article, which deals with some of them.

But I bet The Hip Gan is smilin' mighty, mighty big tonight.

[Emphasis in the quoted text is mine]

Via the CSM and others:

Under a new constitutional amendment, private schools, colleges, and professional training institutes that operate without government funding will be obliged to set aside more than one-quarter of their seats for students from India's "untouchable" lower castes or Dalits, as well as other socially and economically disadvantaged groups.

The amendment, which will apply to admissions for the 2006 academic year, could directly affect the lives and futures of at least 70 percent of India's more than 1.2 billion people.

In addition to Dalits, who make up one-quarter of the population, there are millions of Indians from poor tribes and disadvantaged groups collectively known as other backward castes (OBCs). According to one estimate, approximately 113 million children between the ages of 6 and 14 are now eligible for reserved seats in private schools.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Hard Things: Admitting ignorance when stakes are high

OK, I'm taking off the white gloves for this one. We have a long way to go on such public matters as "Climate Change". LiveScience published this a while back, but AFAIK it's still current.
The bottom line, according to a group of experts not involved in any of these studies: Scientists don't know much about how sunlight interacts with our planet, and until they understand it, they can't accurately predict any possible effects of human activity on climate change.
BINGO. Read it all, for it is good. Even such worthies as Dr Brin seem to take Michael Crichton's most recent book State of Fear to task, along with taking him to task -- such being human nature. But, modulo the cardboard (and card-carrying) pseudo-eco-baddies, what I'd paraphrase him as saying in that book is "We really don't know a hell of a lot about a great deal of crucially-important stuff, and all the hand-wringing and hand-waving isn't bringing us any nearer to finding out." He is not saying that humans are not messing things up, either. As one small example, in a speech for the National Press Club this year ("The Impossibility of Prediction", located on this page), he said:
I still believe that environmental awareness is desperately important. The environment is our shared life support system, it is what we pass on to the next generation, and how we act today has consequences—potentially serious consequences—for future generations. But I have also come to believe that our conventional wisdom is wrongheaded, unscientific, badly out of date, and damaging to the environment. Yellowstone National Park has raw sewage seeping out of the ground. We must be doing something wrong.
In an afterword in State of Fear, Crichton writes:
Nobody knows how much of the present warming trend might be a natural phenomenon. Nobody knows how much of the present warming trend might be man-made. Nobody knows how much warming will occur in the next century.
But it feels good to be doing something, and what if humans are messing things up -- there's no time to waste!, and, and, and.

Because, it's tacitly assumed, the only alternatives to it being beyond doubt that [recent human activities are causing a measurable increase in the average temperature of the planet that presents hazards to life as we know it] are:
  1. You're an ignorant or selfish stooge
  2. You're a selfserving fat cat. Finally, the really scary one...
  3. We're all totally powerless!
Right? Right? Those are the only alternatives, right?!

Humans. I weep for the species. And for mainstream media such as Knight-Ridder, who call up a bunch of scientists that are at the front of their Fil0faxes and (surprise!) mostly find opprobrium for State of Fear. And of course, for Dr Crichton.

Note that I have bones to pick with the works of Dr Crichton, as well. But that's for another time.

"What else could it be but..." works best if you don't listen afterwards. They go together like peas and carrots. OTOH, "We [just] don't know..." can be, or sound like, a cop-out.

Coaxing feedstock from the research funding trough can proceed apace either way.