Published by António Lopes on April 12, 2013
Categories: Geek, Random, Society, Technology, Videos

I’ve never actually been that much into cars but I have a general curiosity on how most things work and this includes the inner workings of vehicles. This golden-oldie video depicts the simple, yet effective, mechanism of differential steering, so if, like me, you didn’t know how this worked…well, now you know. Enjoy:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYAw79386WI]

(thanks, Sérgio)

Published by António Lopes on March 30, 2013

Christopher Priest – The Prestige

My Review: The jury is still out on my favorite Chris Nolan movie, but The Prestige is definitely up there fighting for first place with Memento. So, it was no surprise that I felt I had to read the book that originated the movie. The book is quite different from the movie but the rivalry between the two performers is still the baseline of the plot. However, the storyline is presented by way of the performers’ grandsons reading their personal diaries, entry by entry and trying to make sense of the long-standing war between their families. I very much enjoyed the book as it presents a quite different story based on the same premise, but the delivery is not as good as in the movie. Nevertheless, it’s still a great read for fans of the movie.

My Rating: 4/5

Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter – The Long Earth

My Review: Imagine that there are multiple (possibly infinite) parallel earths that you can visit (“step”) using a very simple potato-powered device that you can build with rudimentary components. This is what this book is all about: setting the baseline for this kind of universe and how this affects society. The story then revolves around a small set of characters that step all over several different Earths in an attempt to understand and discover everything there is to know about this phenomenon. The idea behind the book is great and it definitely raises some interesting questions but the fact that this is only the first volume of a planned series is evident in the pace and continuity of the plot. I’ll look forward for the next volumes.

My Rating: 4/5

Max Brooks – World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

My Review: This book focus on a fake documentary that gathers witnesses’ reports from all around the world regarding the (fictional) Zombie War. It has the same problem as Robopocalypse: in stories based on characters reporting what happened, you already know that those characters didn’t die. And that kind of spoils the story on so many levels. Nevertheless, you still have some interesting twists that can save those story-telling chapters, but that doesn’t always happen and most stories are boring. I think the upcoming movie based on the book may have taken the right approach by focusing on a single character’s point of view (Brad Pitt) and therefore bringing in only the most exciting parts of the book.

My Rating: 3/5

by J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit

My Review: There isn’t much I can say about this book as it is a well-known piece of literature. I quite enjoyed reading it but it would have had a much greater impact on me if I had read it at an earlier age. The Hobbit is definitely a more fantasy/adventure story directed to younger audiences than, say, The Lord of the Rings’ books, which is a lot darker and more dramatic in the fight of good versus evil.

My Rating: 4/5

George R. R. Martin – A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3)

My Review: It’s pointless to try and say much about this book without shooting spoilers all around, so I’ll just say this: two thirds in on this book and I was ready to give it a 3/5 rating, mainly because almost all of the characters spend most of their time traveling and not much happens in terms of the initial development present in the first two books. However (and I can’t stress this “however” enough), the last third of the book is priceless. Huge turns, twists and developments make up for the rest of the book and leave you hanging for more developments (which I hope will be address in the next book).

My Rating: 5/5

Related: What I’ve been reading, Vol. I, IIIII, IVV, VI and VII

Published by António Lopes on March 30, 2013

Imagine that the typical money-for-ransom is traded with a weird request like: “If you want to get your dear princess back, the prime-minister will have to have sexual intercourse with a pig on live television.” Will the prime-minister do it? Or more importantly, in a heavily socialized society where viral content dominates the people’s attention span, would they want him to do it and would they watch?

Or imagine that you live in a future where the most common way of making an income is to work on huge energy-production buildings where people pedal specialized stationary bikes to produce the energy that the rest of the world will consume. The alternative of leading this boring and tiresome life is to become a star in worldwide-broadcast reality shows that range from singing or pornography to physical abuse. Is everything better than the bike?

Or imagine instead that everyone has a brain implant that allows recording and reviewing every memory they have ever had and, by using a small external device, people can simply rewind and fast-forward to a particular memory and display it on a nearby TV for everyone to see. Now imagine you suspect your wife is cheating on you and you over-analyse every memory that you have of her with the guy you suspect she’s having the affair with. How long would it take you to go insane?

Read more…

Published by António Lopes on March 28, 2013
Published by António Lopes on March 20, 2013
nano_laboratory

EPFL scientists have developed a tiny, portable personal implantable blood testing laboratory that sends data through mobile phone network

Yes, it’s all going according to the plan.

Published by António Lopes on March 19, 2013

Don’t know what “recursion” is? Google explains:

recursion_google

Published by António Lopes on March 14, 2013

The news came as a shock, at least for me: Google decided that Google Reader will be shut down as of July, 1st. A lot of reasons have been flying around, with the official statement being that Google needs to focus on fewer products and some saying that they need the engineering team behind Google Reader to start working on Google’s social products (read, Google+). To this, I say: what engineering team?

As far as I can tell, Google Reader hasn’t been updated in ages. Nothing (or close to it) has changed for the last months, if not years. It seems to be, for better or for worse, a finalized product. And if they say the use has been declining, I’m guessing that there isn’t even a storage or server use problem. So, what has its team been working on?

I really don’t get it, but then again, this is and has always been a free product, so we can’t actually demand anything from Google other than a clean way to export our feeds, which they already provide.

What about the future?

Published by António Lopes on March 10, 2013

Back in 2007, US researchers have simulated half a virtual brain of a mouse on a supercomputer. Interestingly, Ray Kurzweil, in his 2005 book “The Singularity is Near“, accurately predicted the amount of computing power necessary for that scientific achievement.

What’s really interesting is the prediction that he made for 2013. Check this graphic:

Supercomputer power

(Image source)

Click here to read more

Published by António Lopes on March 9, 2013
Categories: Geek, Random, Science, Society

I know this is old news1, but I guess it’s worth the consideration: asteroid 2011 AG5, an asteroid roughly the size of a football stadium, is thought to be in a (albeit improbable) collision course to Earth.

(image source)

Should we start to worry?

  1. In Internet Years™, it’s ancient really! []
Published by António Lopes on March 9, 2013
Categories: Books, Funny, Geek, Images, Internet, Personal

I’m reading the third book1 now… guess which part I’m at!

George R. R. Martin will kill a Stark every single time someone asks him how long will it take until the next book comes out

  1. A Storm of Swords []