Links for April 1st

Angel star Hallett dies aged 33

Andy Hallett, a singer who gained fame portraying a green-skinned demon on the cult US TV series Angel, has died of congestive heart disease aged 33.

Hallett was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after having problems breathing and died there on Sunday, his agent said.

It follows a five-year battle with the heart condition.

One click from sectarianism

The recent shootings in Northern Ireland show, that in some cases, Catholics and Protestant sectarianism has continued, despite the Good Friday Agreement.

Dividing peace walls, unofficial Catholic or Protestant leisure centres, schools and even bus stops are some of the more visible signs of continued segregation and sectarianism.

Less visible are the multitude of web pages hosted by MySpace, Facebook and Bebo where young people openly brag about buying guns, the cost of ammo, setting up “cells” and going on night-time patrols.

Could my cell phone really bring down a plane?

American Airlines announced Tuesday that it will expand in-flight Wi-Fi Internet service to its entire fleet. The airline, along with Delta and Virgin America, started offering Wi-Fi on select planes in late 2008. In-flight calls, however, are still prohibited. If I can surf the Web, why can’t I use my cell?

Tor announces The Gathering Storm

Tor Books is proud to announce the November 3rd, 2009 on-sale date for The Gathering Storm, Book Twelve of The Wheel of Time and the first of three volumes that will make up A Memory of Light, the stunning conclusion to Robert Jordan’s beloved and bestselling fantasy series. A Memory of Light, partially written by Jordan and completed by Brandon Sanderson, will be released over a two-year period.

Authors have lost the plot in Amazon Kindle battle

The Amazon Kindle 2’s release in February was attended by much fanfare and controversy: Kindle customers were delighted to discover that Amazon had upgraded the Kindle’s feature-set so that it could use a credible text-to-speech synthesiser to read the books aloud.

This set off the Authors Guild (an organisation that is also on record as opposing making books searchable through Google, and making used books available through Amazon), who claimed that Amazon was in violation of copyright, since only the rightsholder could authorise an “audiobook adaptation” of a book.

As a point of law, I think that the Authors Guild is just wrong here

Good cop, bad cop, very bad cop

TV show The Wire portrays police, politicians and lawyers working on the wrong side of the law. It’s a break from the norm, says dramatist GF Newman, whose own attempt at showing all sides of the story in 1970s Britain caused uproar. But cop shows still have a long way to come.

I have the first two series of The Wire the watch. Really looking forward to that – along with several series of House, 24, Lost etc, etc, etc…


Links for March 17th

Minister won’t confirm belief in evolution

Canada’s science minister, the man at the centre of the controversy over federal funding cuts to researchers, won’t say if he believes in evolution.

“I’m not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don’t think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,” Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

Pope says condoms are not the solution to Aids – they make it worse

The Pope courted further controversy on his first trip to Africa today by declaring that condoms were not a solution to the Aids epidemic – but were instead part of the problem.

In his first public comments on condom use, the pontiff told reporters en route to Cameroon that Aids “is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”.

Ten Things You Don’t Know About Pluto

Pity poor Pluto.

Sure, it reigned as the last planet in the solar system for more than 70 years, but then it was stripped of that title by the International Astronomical Union in a manner so profoundly dumb that I’m still wondering what they were thinking. I do think that the definition of planet can be debated, and that Pluto plays its part, but the IAU really screwed the pooch with the way they did it.

Whether you call Pluto a planet, an iceball, or an animated dog, it’s still a very interesting object. And today, March 13, 2009, marks the 79th anniversary of the announcement of Pluto to the world (and in Illinois it’s officially Pluto Day), so what better time to talk about it?

Four pioneering web innovations

UK web firms are out in force at South by South West Interactive, hoping to raise their profile, find new investment and new partners. Here are four companies flying the flag for UK digital innovation.

Introduction to CalDAV Support – Google Calendar Help

With CalDAV support in Google Calendar, you’ll be able to view and edit your Google Calendar events directly in other calendar applications, such as Apple iCal or Mozilla Sunbird. Any changes you make in other calendar applications will automatically appear in Google Calendar the next time you sign in (and vice versa). If you use other calendar applications while offline, changes you make will be saved and updated in Google Calendar when you get back online.

Where do Satan et al. publish, anyway?

[…]this is an actual abstract for a paper given at the 2004 Baramin Study Group conference. Just try to read it without laughing out loud.

Darwin’s Five Bridges: The Open University Annual Lecture 2008

Professor Richard Dawkins’ lecture, presented to an invited audience at the Natural History Museum, will investigate if Darwin was the most revolutionary scientist ever, and examine the evolutionary theories of his contemporaries.

Richard Dawkins suggests that there are four “bridges to evolutionary understanding” and illustrates this with four claimants to the discovery of natural selection: Edward Blyth, Patrick Matthew, Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin.

The fifth bridge of evolutionary understanding is identified as modern genetics – which he terms digital Darwinism.

Vatican backs abortion row bishop

A senior Vatican cleric has defended the excommunication in Brazil of the mother and doctors of a young girl who had an abortion with their help.

The nine-year-old had conceived twins after alleged abuse by her stepfather.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re told Italian paper La Stampa that the twins “had the right to live” and attacks on Brazil’s Catholic Church were unfair.

Links for February 18th

  • Novelist Pratchett becomes a Sir

    Author Terry Pratchett has been knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace for services to literature.

    Sir Terry, 60, was named in the New Year Honours list.

  • Wonder twins telescope sees star’s dying gasps

    500 light years away, the star T Leporis is dying.

    It used to be much like the Sun, but the store of nuclear fuel in its core is running out. Due to the nuclear processes going on deep inside it, its energy production has vastly increased, blasting out thousands of times the energy it did when it was a stable star. The outer layers of the star absorb this energy, and, like a hot air balloon, expand hugely. Even though it is now far, far brighter than it used to be, the expansion actually cools the star’s surface. It has become a bloated, swollen red giant.

  • Not safe for work: the git that keeps on giving

    Remember: if you steal a man’s fish, you’ll make him hungry for a day, but steal his nets and you’ll keep him hungry for a lifetime.

  • 50 Mobile phone apps to change your life

    If you’ve recently got a new phone for Christmas, be it an iPhone, G1, Nokia or a spiffy BlackBerry, we bet you didn’t know it could change your life.

    Download any of these apps and become more efficient, thinner, fitter and better at saving on the go, so you’ve still got time to sit around in your pants whenever you feel like it.

  • Maybe Facebook should just offer a loyalty card instead

    Facebook has more than 150 million users. You would think that that must be valuable. The problem that “social networking” sites are throwing up, though, is that while you might have a lot of users, how do they ever become something that’s actually valuable?

  • New law making it an offence to photograph a policeman should worry us all

    More than 300 photographers descended on New Scotland Yard this morning to protest about a new law that could criminalise anyone taking a photograph of a police officer. Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act, which came into force today, permits the arrest of anyone taking photographs of the police, the armed forces, or the intelligence services which are “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”. Now a policeman might not be your first choice of subject but this should concern us all.

  • Babies’ gestures partly explain link between wealth and vocabulary

    Babies can say volume without saying a single word. They can wave good-bye, point at things to indicate an interest or shake their heads to mean “No”. These gestures may be very simple, but they are a sign of things to come. Year-old toddlers who use more gestures tend to have more expansive vocabularies several years later. And this link between early gesturing and future linguistic ability may partially explain by children from poorer families tend to have smaller vocabularies than those from richer ones.

  • Creationists are still denying Darwin

    The fundamental ideas behind the theory of evolution have been scientific gospel for decades – and yet creationists refuse to go the way of the dinosaurs. Who exactly are they? And just what do they believe?

  • Facebook ‘withdraws’ data changes

    The founder of Facebook says the social network will return to its previous terms of service regarding user data.

    In a blog post Mark Zuckerberg said the move was temporary “while we resolve the issues that people have raised”.

    Users had complained after new terms of service seemed to suggest Facebook would retain personal data even if someone deleted their account.

  • Westboro Baptist Church justifies UK picket

    This is the full text of the Telegraph’s correspondence with the Westboro Baptist Church, about its plan to stage a picket in Britain for the first time. The church has threatened to demonstrate outside the staging of anti-homophobia play The Laramie Project at a school theatre in Basingstoke, Hampshire on Friday.

Links for February 17th

  • BBC – Newsbeat – Technology – Sky to replace 90,000 HD boxes

    Thousands of Sky+ HD customers are to have their boxes replaced after a fault was discovered by manufacturer Pace.

  • Food intolerance test – Watchdog

    Julia Bradbury went under cover to reveal how a ‘food intolerance’ test available from high street gyms, spas and chemists is a waste of money.

    It’s called the Kymatika K-Test and is marketed as a ‘revolutionary’ non-invasive way to diagnose food intolerances. The test costs on average £30, and, according to the company that developed it, is the culmination of three and a half years of dedicated research.

    However, when Julia took the test twice in the same afternoon, she got very different results.

  • Facebook terms of service compared with MySpace, Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter

    With today’s outrage over Facebook’s newly altered Terms of Service at its peak, I figured I’d do a quick comparison of their terms of service as regards user-uploaded content to the terms specified by other social networking sites, just to see if said outrage is fully justified. It looks as though the finger-pointing at the Bush robots.txt file wasn’t justified, for instance, and I was guilty of spreading that story.

    Conclusion? Go ahead and be outraged. Facebook’s claims to your content are extraordinarily grabby and arrogant.