Is violence declining?

Steven Pinker discusses the History of Violence, how violence is decreasing over many timescales, and some reasons why. The three contending theories?

  • The state's monopoly on violence and disinterested penalties for aggression eliminate the need for constant deterrence and vendettas on an individual basis.
  • Violence is more common when life is perceived as cheap. As standards of living improve world wide, a higher value is placed on life.
  • Non zero-sum games such as trade make others progressively more valuable alive than dead.

I'll be interested to see if his next book moves into topics beyond language.

via Arts & Letters Daily

Space Logistics

MIT has an interesting looking software project to track Space Logistics between the Earth, Moon and Mars.  This reminds me of nothing so much as a genre of games that I used to love as a kid, but are sorely lacking from the panoply of first-person-shooters and MMORPGs.  Titles such as EOS on the C64, and Project Space Station spring to mind. 

EOS had nothing to do with flying around arcade-like, and everything to do with constructing space stations from a variety of modules, dividing them between commercial and research output.  I'm embarassed to say I spent hours with a calculator determining the optimum prices to set for the various products to match market movements.  Eventually you could develop more advanced technology, and send spacecraft eerily reminiscent of Discovery from Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 to the different planets.  As far as I could tell the end result seemed to be finding life on Europa, but that took hours of floppy disk swapping.

Project Space Station always seemed to end with having too little budgetary resources to maintain your space activities.  This was frustrating, but ironically probably made it the most realistic of the two.

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via Boing Boing

Posting from ScribeFire

ScribeFire, an add-on for Firefox (previously known as Performancing - I can see why they changed the name), allows you to easily post to your blog directly in your browser.  So far, I'm impressed.  I'm not sure if it will accept my tags however, so we'll see when this post goes up.  I pasted this screenshot directly in the edit window, so we'll see if it takes:

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(The tags didn't take, as it turned out, and the I added the image manually after the fact.)

Statistics Visualization

A fascinating presentation at TED from Hans Rosling, discussing demographic statistics with his visualization software. Really, you have to watch the video. If you don't have twenty minutes, the hightlight is here.

On a side note, apparently Dr. Rosling is also one of only five sword swallowers in Sweden.


Powerpoint: Octavian Proposes Emperorship

Slideshare is hosting a presentation competition, and this presentation of course caught my eye: A Roman Emperor, presented by Gaius Octavian Caesar

The Team
* Gaius Octavian Caesar, Emperor
Adopted son of a Dictator; vast experience in wielding absolute power over helpless individuals
* Gaius Octavian Caesar, Commander in Chief
Successful campaigns in Mutina and Pilippi; sleeps well in tents while others fight
* Gaius Octavian Caesar, High Priest
Previous experience in similar position; expert bribe-accepting skills
* Gaius Octavian Caesar, Treasury
Julii have always had money; no qualms about skimming off the top


Networking Tips

A couple good networking articles: How to Network for Introverts, and Networking for People Who Hate Networking. Nothing's more important to your career than building relationships.

via LifeHacker


World Map through Books

This is fascinating post on the Google Book Search blog, a Google employee did a world map mashup based on mentions of geographic locations in books, which he gleaned from Google Book Search.

There are also maps for different time periods which show the changing face of the world as expressed through published books. Cool Stuff.

via The Map Room