Weekend Reading XC

by uber

The Great Martian War

I would have preferred more appropriate music.

Media&ae;val Desktops

When did we move from angled surfaces to flat ones for work? I used a raised drawing board for technical drawings, and remember them in architects’ offices as well. I think an angled table would be ideal for a touch-oriented interface.


How Will the Two Hour Marathon be Achieved?

Averaging over 21km/h for two hours would be a spectacular human achievement. One thing that makes it a complicated is that the track and conditions are incredibly significant.


Motivations for Citations

Do you know what a researcher does* all day? I think if you ask most people they will make reference to reading, experiments labs, and writing. In the writing but, one of the central pieces of importance is the citation. Scientific writing is defensive: each claim should be backed by (in order of preference) data, a reference, or a cogent argument. This means that to some extent you can think of science as a prolonged process of investigative journalism into topics very few people care about.

Research is ‘measured’ in terms of impact: papers produced. Getting a paper published means subjecting it to peer-review. Different disciplines hold different types of publication highest in their esteem: it’s monographs in the humanities, it’s certain journals in the sciences, in computer science, some conferences can be career-making. This may be changing.

So how do you pass peer review? Well you need your paper to be original, to be methodologically sound and to be well-referenced. In theory the review process is at least single-blind: the anonymous reviewers comment on your paper, knowing who you are. Peer review is notoriously approximate in its implementation.

Since you want to get published, you will also look at the community of humans around you, and make sure that you pay due respect to the elders of that space and that the paper looks right.

* apart from reddit, twittter, and facebook


From Novice to Master and Back Again

It’s important to write clear code. You’re always writing code for two people, yourself and yourself in six months. I think most coders have at some point sat back and asked ‘who wrote this rubbish?’ only to realise it was their past-selves.


Carrying a Nobel Prize through Airport Security

There aren’t many situations where people travel with big chunks of gold, as opposed to jewellery-like filament. Medals must be the principal thing, and few of them are real gold: the Olympics and the Nobel are two.


Fighting for the Body She Was Born With

I do buy the argument that permitting doping in sport would pretty much immediately make it mandatory, and that this is not desirable because while it might be safe at the professional level, it will encourage amateurs to take huge risks. The lines blur when it comes to autologous blood doping, boosting, and cryotherapy. To what extent is the issue that practices such as these are unnatural or undesirable? Arguably anyone training to a world-class level in a sport is probably doing something unnatural: people put themselves through extreme regimens of training, diet and lifestyle to get there. The case below seems the most difficult of all. Any categorisation or division creates a boundary line, and they always have marginal cases. It seems deeply cruel to reject someone for being born with high testosterone; the implications for their identity must be shattering. The result is an odd one: the athlete needs artificial intervention to change their ‘natural’ state to be permitted to compete.


Photographing the Guillotine

All I could think about while reading this was that the shutter sliding down over the film is another blade falling.